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Families still without power after storms and flooding bring down electricity cables across Kent

27 December 2013
by KentOnline reporter
Prime minister David Cameron has been meeting families and business owners hit by the floods in Kent today.
As more than 700 homes are still flooded in the wake of the torrential rains, Mr Cameron toured Yalding, and met those most severely hit by the storms.
Some angry villagers hit out, after failing to get a response from authorities handling the crisis. 

David Cameron visits Yalding today

Erica Olivares confronted the Prime Minister as he visited the village seriously affected by the latest storms.

She told David Cameron her local council had done nothing to help villagers in Yalding.

The PM tried to defuse the confrontation by promising to contact the council himself and to visit her property. 

But she later said villagers had been given no food or drink over Christmas as the worst of the storms caused damage. 
The prime minister praised the excellent work of emergency and rescue workers who had given up their Christmases to tackle the flooding.
It comes as thousands of families could be set for compensation... as floods and power cuts still cause devastation to many homes and businesses.
David Cameron meets Yalding villagers during a visit to flood-hit sites

David Cameron meets Yalding villagers during a visit to flood-hit sites

There are still a dozen flood warnings in place in the county after a major incident was declared on Christmas Eve.

Rain today will make already treacherous areas even worse, as it pushes water levels back up, forcing areas already under water back into danger.

Scroll down for video of mop-up operation

A park for mobile homes in East Farleigh is totally flooded. Picture Natalie Spearman

A park for mobile homes in East Farleigh is totally flooded. Picture: Natalie Spearman

Ashford and Canterbury are said to be in particular danger of flooding.

It comes as UK Power Networks announced compensation could be offered to some of the thousands affected by the power cuts across Kent.

An announcement today said: "Customers who are eligible for payments will be notified by letter over the next few days.

Why Yalding's so badly hit by the floods

Why Yalding's so badly hit by the floods

"As a gesture of goodwill UK Power Networks has decided to boost the industry standard payment from £27 to £75 for customers who are without power for 48-60 hours including Christmas Day, and additional payments will be made to any customers off supply for longer."

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But the gesture will be cold comfort for those who missed out on a turkey roast on Christmas Day, or may have lost the contents of their freezer to the cuts.

Kent Fire and Rescue spent yesterday rescuing people from properties in Yalding.

The middle of Maidstone is still flooded and the Sheppey Crossing was closed because of high winds.

Southeastern has said most services are now up and running, although some - such as in the line between Otford and Maidstone East - won't be running because of landslides. 

The Met Office said the weather should calm down later today, but the mop-up operation will take days to bring parts of Kent back to normality.

A statement from the Environment Agency today said: "There will be ongoing disruption across the south of England, particularly the south east – such as along the River Medway and the Kentish Stour around Ashford and Canterbury.

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"People are urged to prepare for flooding, listen to the advice of emergency services and stay tuned to local radio stations for the latest information.

"Ongoing river flooding across the Somerset Levels, River Severn, River Thames and River Ouse in Cambridgeshire and rivers across Essex is expected.

"Our teams have been on duty throughout the Christmas holidays to man pumping stations, issue flood warnings and ensure that flood banks, walls and barriers are in place.

It's called Our Lovely Boat, but this beloved craft at East Farleigh was going nowhere. Picture Natalie Spearman

It's called Our Lovely Boat, but this beloved craft at East Farleigh was going nowhere. Picture: Natalie Spearman

There are still around 1,700 homes in Kent without power following this week's storm. 

A spokesman for UK Power Networks said "We are monitoring the weather closely and in close contact with the Met Office as the forecast for (today) develops.

Carl Lewis helps volunteers mop up after flood damage in Tonbridge

Carl Lewis helps volunteers mop up after flood damage in Tonbridge

"The electricity network is built to be resilient but extreme weather can affect overhead power lines when tree branches and windborne debris damage them.

"Robust emergency plans are in place to cope with severe weather and again bring in additional staff covering engineer, technical and call centre roles if the network is damaged."

Yalding has borne the brunt of the flooding, with families evacuated to hotels, B&Bs and hostels across the borough - many have been without power since Monday.

Following evacuations on Christmas Eve, Kent Fire and Rescue Service helped around 50 people to evacuate their homes in the town on Christmas Day as the River Medway flooded properties across the area.

Maidstone looking gloomy as floods hit the town centre. Picture George Haswell

Gloomy skies as floods hit. File picture: George Haswell

In some places water levels have reached chest high. 
In Maidstone, a fire engine was abandoned after it became trapped under a bridge.
Sean Bone-Knell, Kent Fire and Rescue's assistant director of service delivery, said: “It’s been an incredibly busy festive period and our crews and control room staff have done a fantastic job in helping people. We have not been able to assist with every call but there have been a number of incidents where we have rescued people in very difficult situations.
Video: Tonbridge folk help with clear-up after the flooding
“I would like to praise all of those staff and also send our sincere thanks to partner agencies for their role in this multi-agency operation.
Anyone lost a sofa Picture @Kent_999s

Anyone lost a sofa? Picture: @Kent_999s

"We would still urge the public to listen to flood guidance from the Environment Agency, Kent Police and their local authority. With some severe weather still forecast and rivers threatening to flood again, please make sure you take steps to protect your home and if you are advised to evacuate then please do so.”
On Christmas Day around 17,000 homes were without power in the county, after electricity cables were brought down following a night of gale-force winds and torrential rain on Monday.

UK Power Networks staff battled throughout the day to ensure as many homes as possible could have an electricity supply for their Christmas feast.

Boat stuck at Tovil footbridge. Picture George Haswell

Boat stuck at Tovil footbridge. Picture: George Haswell

The company provided hundreds of Christmas dinners for people without power at restaurants and mobile facilities across the South East and work is continuing to repair the damaged overhead lines caused by this week’s high winds.

Nearly a dozen areas were affected by flood warnings in Kent, with more than 80 flood alerts stretching across the South East as a whole.

Not quite the festive Christmas tree... Picture George Haswell

Not quite the festive Christmas tree... Picture: George Haswell

Maidstone Bridge - pic courtesy of Our Maidstone

Maidstone Bridge - pic courtesy of Our Maidstone

On Christmas Eve, around 80 people were rescued from a caravan park in Yalding, after at least 2ft of water flooded caravans, leaving Coastguard teams to carry people to safety over several hours in a mass evacuation.

It came after the Medway Coastguard rescue team was called out to reports of one family surrounded by water in their caravan.

But when they arrived they found much of the park flooded, and dozens of caravans affected.

With water levels still rising, crews used a yacht tender to help people to safety - at least 80% of the 120 caravans were in use, with people now marooned and desperately needing help.

Coastguard teams use boats to rescue the stranded at Yalding. Picture Medway Coastguard

Coastguard teams use boats to rescue the stranded at Yalding. Picture: Medway Coastguard

Dozens of caravans were submerged as Coastguard teams rescued families in Yalding. Picture Medway Coastguard

Dozens of caravans were submerged as Coastguard teams rescued families in Yalding. Picture: Medway Coastguard

After five hours battling in cold water, Medway officers called for back-up from Sheppey and Herne Bay in the mass evacuation. 

Around 70 people were taken to either friends or family or the Salvation Army. 

The rescue came after 999 teams faced a deluge of calls in the aftermath of the high winds and sometimes severe flooding.

Police said they received more than twice the normal number of calls overnight on Monday, with Kent Fire and Rescue Service dealing with hundreds of calls over several hours.

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People are advised to report fallen power cables to the UK Power Networks emergency number on 0800 783 8866.

Flooded car park in Swanley. Picture Lindsey Tierney

Flooded car park in Swanley. Picture: Lindsey Tierney

Police have issued the following advice:

  • Although road conditions are improving, motorists are urged to stay alert to potential dangers and drive responsibly (keep safe distance from vehicle in front, allow extra braking distance, etc).
  • Some parts of Kent have/may see some localised flooding. Motorists are advised to check brakes after passing through water, homeowners to check if their gas/electricity supply has sustained water damage and if it has, contact a professional before switching them on.
  • Many homes across the county have suffered loss of power. UK Power Networks are working on resolving the outage. Members of the public yet to report power failure should contact their provider.

People can get the latest on the flood warnings from the Environment Agency floodline on 0845 988 1188. 

Click here for more news from Kent.

Click here for more news from around the county.

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