Power knocked out as Storm Imogen roars through UK


Tens of thousands of people have been left without power as Storm Imogen battered Britain with hurricane-force winds reaching speeds of almost 100mph.

Coastal communities in Wales and south west and southern England bore the brunt of the weather that tore in from the Atlantic, leaving 15,000 homes without power and creating severe problems for road, rail and ferry routes.

In Cornwall an RSPCA inspector is missing after going to rescue sea birds on Sunday afternoon.

Colleagues joined the hunt for Mike Reid, 54, who went to the aid of around 30 gannets stranded on rocks near Penzance, but has not been seen since.

Several people have been injured, including two children aged five and seven, who were taken to hospital on Monday morning after a stone wall fell on them in Bretforton, near Evesham, Worcestershire. It came less than two weeks after the local authority inspected the wall and found no immediate danger to the public.

A man in his 70s had a broken leg and his dog was killed after a 5ft garden wall blew on to them in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, shortly before 8am on Monday. In Bristol, a man in his 40s was injured after trees fell on to a three-storey block of flats.

Those who had lucky escapes included a father and daughter near Exeter, Devon, who had a 30m (100ft) tree blown on to their car outside their house, minutes before they were due to leave for school.

Conditions out at sea reached "phenomenal" states, with waves topping 16m (52ft 6in) and a monster of 19.1m (63ft) recorded off St Ives on Monday, the Met Office said.

Fastnet lighthouse, off the south west of County Cork, recorded sustained winds of up to 121mph.

Met Office forecaster Emma Sillitoe said winds had hit 96mph at the Needles off the Isle of Wight. Speeds should ease into Tuesday, she added, but there was still a chance of gales in Wales, along the Channel and coastal parts of East Anglia.

"It is really going to be into (this) morning that places have lighter winds," she said.

"There will still be some strong winds along the coast of Devon and Cornwall but for most places (it) will be a more settled day."

Coastguards issued a warning after schoolchildren were pictured on Monday standing on a beach on the Solent as Storm Imogen hit.

The group were spotted on the beach at Hill Head, near Southampton, Hampshire. Coastguards posted a photograph on Twitter, adding that they were primary school children "on an organised trip".

About 55 Environment Agency flood warnings are in place amid the heavy downpours calling for "immediate action", particularly in the South West and the Midlands, where parts were expected to see around 1.5ins (40mm) of rain during Monday.

A further 182 less severe flood alerts were in place.

In Wales, Bridgend town centre was closed by police as strong winds blew tiles from roofs. A wind turbine also caught alight in high winds.

Several schools in Cornwall were closed after power cuts and a car parked by Newquay's Fistral beach was almost submerged by windswept sand.

In neighbouring Devon, Barnstaple civic centre was damaged and the refit of the frigate HMS Argyll at Devonport dockyard in Plymouth was suspended after a hangar door was damaged.

Meanwhile a Lloyds Bank branch in Yatton, north Somerset, had its roof blown off.

The Forestry Commission was forced to close several forests due to strong winds.

Bad weather and stormy seas disrupted cross-channel ferry services after the Port of Dover temporarily closed overnight on Sunday due to wind and strong sea swells.

DFDS and P&O ferries between Dover and Calais were affected, while services from Liverpool to Dublin and from Newhaven to Dieppe were cancelled.

There were major delays and cancellations on Brittany Ferries crossings between south-coast ports and northern France and Spain.