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December 24, 2013
Christmas Travel Plans Hit By Storms
Travellers are still struggling with transport problems after a night of widespread storms caused flooding and power outages and toppled hundreds of trees.
Earlier there were no train services to or from Gatwick airport in West Sussex and power problems at its north terminal meant that only British Airways flights were departing.
From 1pm all passengers were told that all other flights would leave from Gatwick's south terminal.
Passengers complained of a lack of information and spoke of four-hour delays.
In Dorset fire crews rescued around 25 people from cars trapped in floodwater.
Fire control said rescuers helped get people out of stranded vehicles in the Sturminster, Blandford, Shaftesbury, Sherborne and Wimborne areas.
In Shropshire, a woman was killed and a man seriously hurt in a car crash which happened in "difficult weather conditions".
The south of the country has had some respite from the stormy weather but parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland are still being battered by strong gales and heavy rains.
Engineers are working to restore power to as many as 130,000 homes across the country, with no guarantee the lights will be back on in time for Christmas Day.
A number of train companies were unable to run any early-morning trains and when services did eventually start they were subject to delays and cancellations.
Network Rail (NR) said more than 200 trees had come down on lines during the last 24 hours and there had been "a further 100 major incidents discovered on top of that".
It added that in southern England the storm damage had been greater than that of the 'St Jude's Storm' a few weeks ago.
Customers are being advised to check the latest travel situation before starting their journeys.
The fatal crash in Shropshire happened near Shrewsbury just after 9.30pm on Monday.
West Midlands Ambulance Service said in a statement: "Weather conditions at the time were very difficult.
"On arrival, crews found three cars at the scene. Firefighters were undertaking life support on a woman in one of the cars.
"Sadly despite all efforts, it was not possible to save her and she was confirmed dead at the scene. A man from the same car was assessed but was uninjured.
"A man in his 30s from a second car was trapped for over half an hour. He had suffered facial, hip and leg injuries. A woman in the third car was uninjured."
A man's body was also pulled from the River Rothesay in Ambleside in Cumbria, while a woman died in a river in Gwynedd, North Wales.
Five teenagers were also hurt in a separate incident after their car rolled over in "wet and windy" weather conditions north of Wolverhampton, West Midlands Ambulance Service said.
Some 900 passengers were stuck on the Spirit of Britain ferry outside Dover for 15 hours as it was considered too risky to enter the harbour.
The ship left Calais last night and managed to dock safely at around 7.30am.
Shortly before the ship reached Dover, Digvijay Rathod told Sky News: "Many people haven't slept. I have 53 people to take care of. There are mothers, there are children who have been sick.
"It's been a tough night - people just want to get home. We left Calais at 4pm and we were supposed to reach here within two hours."
The Environment Agency has issued hundreds of flood warnings across all of England and Wales, with a severe flood warning - the highest level warning of danger to life - in the South West, where properties are expected to flood.
People travelling on First Great Western's service from London Paddington to Devon and Cornwall were left stranded at Taunton in Somerset shortly before 1am because of flooding and signal problems.
Passengers described delays after leaving London before the service was terminated at Taunton with First Great Western then having to put people on buses and taxis to get them to their destination.
Tim Field from the Energy Networks Association told Sky News that it was not possible to promise that power would be restored to homes cut off by the storm in time for Christmas Day.
He said: "We've been able to restore about 60,000 properties yesterday evening and last night but with the storms that have come in, people are waking up this morning to find themselves without power.
"We've been facing some very difficult conditions. Fallen trees have brought down power lines and blocked roads, which has affected engineers' progress."
The RNLI released footage of the rescue of a Labrador swept out to sea and thought by its owner to be dead.
The pair had been out walking when it went into the waters off Sea Palling, on the north Norfolk coast, and was taken away by the tide.
The Environment Agency Flood Line can be contacted on 0845 988 1188 for advice and up to date information.
Christmas Day is expected to be calmer with just a few wintry showers in the north and west, while Boxing Day looks mainly fine, but stormy conditions look set to return on Friday.