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Tuesday, January 6, 1998 Published at 06:17 GMT


Threats of flooding follow the storm
image: [ Dozens have been injured and forecasters warn driving conditions are still hazardous ]
Dozens have been injured and forecasters warn driving conditions are still hazardous

Hurricane force winds in southern England,Wales and parts of the Midlands have left two people dead, dozens injured and tens of thousands of homes without power.

Forecasters have said that the worst of the storm conditions are now over but they have warned that weather is still causing disruption and making driving conditions treacherous.

They have also said that heavy rain and snow on high ground may bring further threats of flooding.

A cleanup operation is underway across the country. The cost of the damage to householders and local authorities is expected to run into millions of pounds.

[ image: A woman was crushed under this streetlight when it fell on top of her]
A woman was crushed under this streetlight when it fell on top of her
The latest storm casualty is a woman in central London, who was taken to intensive care after being hit on the head by a street lamp, toppled by high winds.

The victim, aged in her mid-20s, had to be revived by paramedics after she stopped breathing after the incident in Cavendish Square, in London's West End.

Her condition in hospital is said to be critical.

Storm claims two lives

An 83-year-old woman who was injured by a large parasol blown over by the gale-force winds died in hospital.

Selina Andrews, from Cardiff, was buying flowers in the city centre when she was struck.

A man also died and a woman was left injured when a tree fell on a car at Gospel End, Wombourne, Staffordshire, on Sunday evening.

Power lines down

[ image: Extra engineers drafted in to help repair the damage]
Extra engineers drafted in to help repair the damage
More than 35,000 homes are still without power and engineers are working around the clock to restore supplies.

Over 200 extra staff from the Midlands, south Wales and Manchester have joined 800 engineers from the South Western Electricity company to repair downed power lines and damaged substations.

Police are warning members of the public not to touch any cables they may find lying across roads in case they are still "live".

Some homes have now been without electricity for 36 hours, but a South Western Electricity Board spokesman said he was hopeful of restoring most of the supply by Monday evening. He appealed to the public to be patient and said that working conditions for the engineers were very hazardous.

"We're doing our best," he said.

More flooding anticipated

[ image: The clean up operation is underway on the south coast]
The clean up operation is underway on the south coast
Flooding is still causing a problem in some areas with more heavy rain forecast.

Hundreds of homes on the south coast have been flooded and damaged in the torrential rain and gales.

The worst hit areas are the south coast and the south west, where seaside resorts were put on red alert on Sunday afternoon as waves of up to 40ft crashed through hastily-prepared defences.

Rivers throughout Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Dorset and south Wales have remained on amber alert - the second most serious warning - since Sunday night.

There is unlikely to be any immediate let up in storm conditions with winds gusting up to 60mph.

On Sunday wind speeds reached up to 115mph causing havoc to roads and devastation to homes.

Destruction across the south

[ image: The sea breached defences in Selsey, Sussex]
The sea breached defences in Selsey, Sussex
Five people were treated in hospital after a tree fell on their car at Welland, near Malvern, Worcestershire. One man had to be freed from the wreckage by fire crews.

In Kent, a man was injured after a tree fell on his car in Gillingham, and 18-year-old Robert Reynolds was taken to hospital after being hit by a falling tree. Firefighters worked for up to half an hour to free the teenager.

In Newport, south Wales, a woman was injured and taken to Royal Gwent Hospital after being hit in the face by a shop sign torn from premises in Maindee Square.

The storms also wreaked havoc at sea. 10 Spanish trawlermen had to be rescued by two RAF helicopters 200 miles off Land's End after their trawler started drifting, battered by waves the size of houses.

One Stena Line ferry from Harwich arrived in the Hook of Holland with serious damage to her bow.

Warnings heeded

[ image: The storms have left many roads impassable]
The storms have left many roads impassable
Despite the ferocity of the storms, the death toll is relatively low compared with the 19 victims of the 1987 hurricane.

A spokesman for Essex police said: "Luckily, most people seem to have decided to stay indoors and not drive or walk about. It may look and sound dramatic, but these weather conditions are extremely dangerous and we would urge people not to go outside."

Thousands of trees were uprooted in the storms, blocking roads and train lines from Devon to the Midlands. Buildings were damaged as road signs, roof tiles and other debris rained down.

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