Power cuts and flights chaos as Storm Frank hits UK


Homes have been left without power and air passengers delayed as Storm Frank began to batter the UK on its way towards flood-hit areas.

The latest storm to sweep the country caused widespread disruption in Northern Ireland, with thousands of homes experiencing power cuts. 

It is set to pour more misery on flood-ravaged homeowners in northern England today, with officials warning them to brace themselves for further damage from torrential rain and gale-force winds.

Northern Ireland Electricity Networks said late last night it had experienced faults which caused more than 2,000 homes in Enniskillen to lose power, while there were also outages in Coleraine.

And passengers on nine flights into Belfast International Airport were temporarily held on planes as high winds of up to 55 knots, about 63 mph, prevented ground crews getting access steps in place.

Two other inbound flights from Luton and Tenerife had to be diverted to Dublin, the airport said.

A Belfast International Airport spokesman added: "The high wind warning lasts until the early hours of Wednesday morning. Some airlines have cancelled flights, so we would ask passengers to please contact their airline for updates."

It followed another day of chaos caused by bad weather, particularly in the Yorkshire area.

On Tuesday night, soldiers were sent in to evacuate homes around a storm-battered bridge after it started to collapse, prompting fears of flooding and a possible gas explosion.

A severe flood warning was issued for the bridge over the River Wharfe in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, with the Environment Agency (EA) warning people to leave immediately because of a "significant risk to life".

The 18th-century bridge started to collapse into the swollen river at around 5pm, with a crowd gathering as masonry fell into the swirling torrent.

An EA spokesman said: "Significant flooding is expected in the Tadcaster area. Those in this area are advised to evacuate immediately.

"The situation is serious and there is a significant risk to life. Please follow the advice of the emergency services and officials in the area."

People watching ran as a wave headed towards the bank and a strong smell of gas came from pipes left visible in the gaping hole.

Emergency services arrived quickly before soldiers were deployed to evacuate people from homes and helped police set up a 200m cordon, saying it was "due to fears of a gas explosion".

Meanwhile, in York, police condemned thieves who looted homes submerged in dirty water. North Yorkshire Police's Acting Superintendent Mark Grange said: "It is extremely disappointing to see victims of the floods being targeted in this way.

"It is impossible to comprehend why anyone would want to bring further suffering to those who are already in a very vulnerable situation."

The EA had earlier warned of the potential for further significant flooding, especially in Cumbria, while floods minister Rory Stewart said a potentially "very bad situation" lay ahead.

In many areas the ground is still saturated from previous downpours and river levels remain at record highs.

Waters are receding, but across the North, more than 6,700 homes have flooded in the past week.

There are currently four severe flood warnings, 46 flood warnings and 81 flood alerts in place across England and Wales.

Scotland was also bracing itself with Met Office amber "be prepared" warnings issued for today in all mainland regions outside the Highlands. There were also 36 flood warnings and 14 flood alerts in place.

A red weather warning was issued for the Isle of Man overnight, with up to 100mm (4ins) of rain expected on high ground.

Large parts of Ireland were also braced for another winter battering, weeks after Storm Desmond caused serious flooding in many areas.

:: Council staff in Kendal, Cumbria, are warning parents that a playground which flooded when a nearby river burst its banks earlier this month could pose dangers for children.

Signs have been posted in the Abbot Hall Play Area, which stands next to the River Kent, warning of "contaminants".

South Lakeland District Council is advising parents to make sure children's hands are washed after they leave the playground.