Battered Britain faces new winter storm
LONDON (AFP) - Tens of thousands of Britons endured a second day without power on Thursday as yet another Atlantic storm barrelled towards a country struggling to deal with the wettest winter for 250 years.
The fresh band of rain, snow and strong winds was due to strike flood-hit southern Britain on Friday, two days after hurricane-force gales tore through the country leaving one person dead.
The swollen River Thames was expected to reach its highest level for 60 years at the weekend, promising fresh misery for flooded towns west of London where the military is providing relief.
Energy companies were on Thursday trying to get power back to more than 56,000 people still left without electricity, having restored supplies to more than 400,00 hit by outages during Wednesday's storm.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he would seek financial aid from the European Union to cope with the floods, despite his promises to renegotiate London's relationship with Brussels and hold a referendum.
"There is assistance that we are seeking from the EU," he said. "Some of the money I'm making available for Britain's farmers comes out of an EU budget." Cameron said he was also seeking "expertise" from other EU nations, including "Dutch experts on pumping and dealing with flood defences".
His government has faced criticism for being slow to help people in flood-hit areas.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg later announced a 250,000 pounds (S$527,232) fund to advise those hit by the floods.
The Met Office said there would be a "multi-pronged attack" of wind, rain and snow striking Britain on Friday. The heavy rain could lead to more flooding as downpours of up to 40 millimetres could fall in just six hours, a spokesman said Gusts approaching 100 miles per hour (160 kilometres per hour) tore at parts of England and Wales overnight Wednesday.
One man died after being electrocuted while attempting to move a fallen tree that had brought down power lines in Wiltshire, southwest England, the first to be killed in the latest round of storms.
The floods were also spreading, as water filled the historic crypt of Winchester Cathedral in the southern county of Hampshire.
Authorities also issued a new severe flood alert, the highest category indicating danger to life, for the River Severn in western England, bringing the total across the country to 17. There are another 14 in Berkshire and Surrey to the west of London and two in the southwestern county of Somerset.
More than 5,800 properties have flooded since early December, officials said.
Emergency efforts were picking up following criticism of a sluggish response, and the military said 1,600 soldiers had been deployed with 2,000 in total available.
Wednesday's weather conditions brought chaos for commuters, stranding a train carrying hundreds of passengers after overhead lines came down in Yorkshire, northern England, and services to the west of London remained severely disrupted through Thursday.
Train operator Network Rail said teams armed with chainsaws and pumps were on stand-by to deal with Friday's forecasted storm.
Britain also faces an economic battering after Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the fragile recovery from recession would be affected as the bad weather hits farming and transport.
"There's a big human cost here and I absolutely recognise that," Carney told ITV News. "Then there's the disruption to economic activity that we see just through transport, but farming clearly will be affected for some time, (and) other businesses.
"It is something that will affect the near-time outlook." Cameron has said that "money is no object in this relief effort".
He also said grants of up to 5,000 pounds would be available to businesses and homeowners affected by flooding to allow them to protect their properties better in future.