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British storms cause power cuts, batter sea walls
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Feb 05, 2014

Spanish boat breaks in two off French coast
Anglet, France (AFP) Feb 05, 2014 - A Spanish cargo ship slammed into a dyke and split in two near the French port of Bayonne on Wednesday as wild weather lashed Europe's Atlantic coasts.

The local mayor's office said the boat, carrying 11 sailors, had crashed into the dyke amid heavy seas near the town of Anglet on its way to Bayonne in southwestern France.

The prefecture for the Pyrenees-Atlantiques region said it had suffered a "complete electrical breakdown".

It said the sailors were evacuated by helicopter in a rescue operation made difficult by lashing winds of up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) an hour.

Officials said a fuel leak had been detected and an emergency plan known as Polmar had been activated to deal with maritime pollution.

But Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, who rushed to the scene, said there was probably no risk "of massive pollution".

The prefecture said one of the sailors suffered minor injuries.

It said the Luno cargo ship, 100 metres (330 feet) long, had been empty.

An AFP reporter at the scene described half of the boat as resting on the dyke while the other half was lying on the beach at Anglet -- a favourite spot for surfers in France.

Local mayor Jean Espilondo questioned why the boat had been given authorisation to enter the port in bad weather.

"We know that the entry conditions for the port of Bayonne are very difficult," he said.

He added that the town would have to wait until the sea calmed down to make sure that none of the ship's reservoirs had been pierced.

Weather service Meteo France had earlier put nine regions on France's northern and Atlantic coasts on alert for bad weather.

In Brittany, about 25,000 people were without power on Tuesday after high winds brought by Atlantic storm Petra, which was wreaking similar havoc in southwestern England.

More than 8,000 homes were without power in southwest England on Wednesday after fresh storms battered the region, sending huge waves crashing onto the coastline and damaging sea defences.

The main train service connecting the counties of Devon and Cornwall with the rest of Britain were suspended after part of the sea wall under the coastal railway line collapsed.

Local member of parliament Ben Bradshaw said the line closure was a "devastating blow" to the regional economy.

The Environment Agency issued nine severe flood warnings for the southwest, meaning there was a "danger to life", and Prime Minister David Cameron was due to chair a meeting of the government's emergency committee Cobra.

The committee has been meeting near daily over the past few weeks as storms have brought flooding to much of Britain, including to the southwest county of Somerset, where one village has been cut off for a month.

Speaking in parliament before Wednesday's meeting, Cameron announced an additional 100 million ($163 million, 120 million euros) for flood repairs and maintenance over the coming year.

"Whatever is required, whether it is dredging work on the rivers Tone and Parrett, whether it is support for our emergency services, whether it is fresh money for flood defences, whether it is action across the board, this government will help those families and get this issue sorted," he said.

The electricity distribution network that covers Devon, Cornwall and Somerset said about 8,200 properties still remained without power on Wednesday morning.

"It's all weather-related. There's been absolutely no let-up," a spokeswoman for Western Power Distribution told AFP.

A further 60,000 homes had been reconnected overnight, according to the prime minister.

Meteorologists at the national weather centre, the Met Office, warned of further heavy rain and gale force winds to come on Wednesday and through to the weekend.

Police in Somerset warned drivers to stay at home where possible, saying many roads were impassible because of fallen trees and branches, or surface water.

Britain has been lashed by storms and heavy rain throughout the winter with parts of southern England seeing the wettest January since records began in 1910.

Many of those affected by flooding have expressed anger at the Environment Agency, which is responsible for maintaining flood defences and draining rivers, for failing to take pre-emptive action.

Prince Charles appeared to add his voice to the criticism during a visit to Somerset on Tuesday.

"There's nothing like a jolly good disaster to get people to start doing something. The tragedy is that nothing happened for so long," the heir to the throne said.

On Monday, the Environment Agency's chairman, Chris Smith, warned that Britain may have to choose between protecting its towns or its countryside from flooding in the future.

Prince Charles visits British flood victims as storm sweeps in
London (AFP) Feb 04, 2014 - More bad weather left thousands of British homes without power on Tuesday, hours after Prince Charles visited flood-hit villages marooned by the wettest January for more than a century.

The south west of England, already on the receiving end of a winter battering, was worst affected with 14,000 properties left without power, according to Western Power Distribution

The company said "airborne debris" carried by 75-80mph (120-130 kph) winds had damaged overhead lines.

"We will be working into the early hours to restore power providing it's safe to do so," said a spokesman.

Heir to the throne Prince Charles earlier met residents, farmers and emergency staff in the stricken county of Somerset, in southwest England.

Charles, who often speaks out about environmental and rural issues, pledged 50,000 ($81,800, 60,600 euros) from his Prince's Countryside Fund to help the region.

His visit comes as the government of Prime Minister David Cameron faces anger over its response to the floods.

Charles, 65, received a round of applause from locals as he arrived in the town of Stoke St Gregory.

The Prince of Wales was later due to travel by boat to the village of Muchelney, which has been marooned by floodwaters for more than a month.

"Prince Charles can't change anything, but people are pleased that he's coming," said Catherine Denny, a retired school teacher.

Forecasters warned that winds in the area were due to strengthen overnight and into Wednesday.

"The band of rain which is moving across from the south west will continue its journey north-eastwards during the course of the night, with fragmented outbreaks of rain -- still pretty heavy -- following on behind," said the Met Office.

"It will continue to be very windy. We can expect to see gusts of 60-70mph quite widely across parts of south Wales, Devon and Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset"

The Environment Agency issued four severe flood warnings for the region, indicating that the conditions posed a danger to life.

Britain has suffered from storms and heavy rain throughout the winter with parts of southern England seeing the wettest January since records began in 1910.

Cameron's government has come under fire after an official warned Monday that Britain may have to choose between protecting its towns or its countryside from flooding in the future.


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