15 Feb 2014

Storms claim two lives

A minicab driver dies in central London after her car is crushed by falling masonry and a cruise ship passenger dies after the vessel is hit by a freak wave.

The 49-year-old driver, named as Julie Sillitoe, died and two other people were injured just after 11pm on Friday when part of the front of a building collapsed on to her car opposite Holborn Underground station in central London.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “A front portion of the building had collapsed on to a Skoda Octavia car. The car was stationary at the time of the building collapse.”

Mrs Sillitoe was married with three grown-up sons, Scotland Yard said on Saturday. Her passengers, a 25-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman, are currently being treated in hospital.

Julie Sillitoe (Met Police)

The man, who was trapped in the car, suffered leg injuries. The female passenger managed to free herself from the rear of the vehicle. Their injuries are not life-threatening, police said.

A fourth person, believed to be a male passer-by, was also injured and taken to hospital, London Ambulance Service said. A further 10 people were evacuated from nearby buildings as a precaution.

Cruise ship horror

And an 85-year-old man died after the Marco Polo cruise ship was hit by a freak wave in the English Channel, whipped up by 80mph winds.

The wave crashed through a window, injuring a number of people. The man was airlifted off the vessel along with a woman in her 70s, but later died.

About 10 other people suffered minor injuries and were treated on board.

The ship is returning from South America and the West Indies and is due to dock at Tilbury, Essex, in the early hours of Sunday.

More severe flood warnings

The bad weather continues with 22 severe flood warnings in place for coastal areas from Cornwall to Hampshire, Gloucester and the Thames Valley, where rivers remain at their highest levels for decades.

Read more: the wettest winter on record

Waves of up to 33ft (10m) threatened to cut off Portland in Dorset and than 30 people had to be rescued from a seafront restaurant in Milford on Sea, Hampshire, after the windows were smashed and seawater flooded in.

Chief Inspector Gary Cooper from Hampshire Police said: “Last night’s joint operation to rescue 32 people from the restaurant was probably the most difficult joint operation I have been involved in in 28 years of policing.

“The extreme weather conditions of stones being thrown from the beach with the power of the wind to smash windscreens of fire engines and military trucks was almost like they were being shot from a rifle.”

Trees are reported to have fallen on trains near Mottingham in south-east London, and near Winterslow in Wiltshire, but no-one was hurt in either incident.

All train services west of Plymouth have been cancelled, while a landslide near Redhill has hit the railway line south of the capital.

Network Rail said there were heavy delays on the West Coast Main Line this morning as engineers work to repair damage to overhead lines caused by fallen trees.

A spokesman said: “It’s been a vicious night with in excess of 120 trees coming down overnight, blocking dozens of routes across southern England and bringing overhead wires down on the West Coast Main Line south of Milton Keynes.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA), which represents energy companies across the UK, said more than 140,000 homes were without power after storms overnight.

Forecasters are warning of more heavy rain and gale-force winds on Saturday. Southern England will see between 0.4in (10mm) and 0.8in (20mm), while the South West and South Wales could see up to 1.6in (40mm), according to the Met Office.