Gatwick 'mat face probe over chaos'

Gatwick Airport chiefs face a possible investigation over the Christmas travel misery as more stormy weather is set to hit the UK.

Gatwick 'mat face probe over chaos'

Gatwick Airport chiefs face a possible investigation over the Christmas travel misery as more stormy weather is set to hit the UK.

The airport saw some of the worst chaos on Christmas Eve after a power outage at its North Terminal led to “significant power outages and delays”.

Just two months after Gatwick flights were hit by another storm, passengers complained of a lack of information and spoke of four-hour delays as more than 35 flights were cancelled.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it expected the West Sussex airport’s bosses to examine exactly what caused the chaos before deciding what further action to take.

Asked about a possible investigation, the spokesman added: “We need to know exactly what happened at the airport. Once we have that information we can decide if there is any further action we need to take.”

An airport spokesman has said the cause of the outages was flooding from the River Mole into airfield substations and North Terminal.

It comes as the Christmas misery faced by the thousands of people left without power and the hundreds who have been affected by floods looked set to continue.

Scores of people had to be evacuated due to flooding, following a number of deaths, thought to be related to the bad weather, in the days running up to Christmas.

The Environment Agency (EA) said there have been an estimated 1,000 reports of properties flooding in England.

Some 32,600 properties across the UK were still without power last night, the Energy Networks Association said, with Tim Field, spokesman for the company, adding: “It’s likely that some people will still be off on Boxing Day. We don’t have exact numbers.”

UK Power Networks said there are less than 20,000 properties in the South East without power and that the East of England is now virtually back to normal apart from a few isolated pockets of customers.

However, the company added: “Due to the severity of the storm damage in Kent, Surrey and Sussex it may take until the end of the week to restore power supplies to the final pockets of customers in these areas, though work is continuing to reconnect supplies as quickly as possible.”

Met Office forecaster Charles Powell said last night the imminent storm is “probably not as severe” as the week’s previous weather – adding that it will arrive this evening and be cleared by lunchtime tomorrow.

However, he warned that there could be gusts of upwards of 70mph in coastal areas.

“The wind will be the more apparent thing,” he said.

But the storm is “not lingering”, and Mr Powell added: “By midday it will be cleared.”

With many families’ turkey dinner ruined, UK Power Networks made arrangements for “hundreds” of people left without power to have Christmas dinner.

The EA has two severe warnings in place in the South West – the highest level of alert, which means there is a danger to life, at Beaulieu Garden Park Home Site and Iford Bridge Home Park, where evacuations have already taken place.

There were 93 flood warnings and 185 flood alerts last night.

Firefighters broke their Christmas Eve strike in parts of England because of the storms.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union in Surrey and Kent were recalled to duty under the terms of an agreement between the union, the employers and the Government.

In the early hours of yesterday, around 90 people were evacuated from their homes on the River Stour near Bournemouth. Police began to evacuate residents of the Ilford Bridge Home Park shortly after 3am following a severe flood warning from the EA.

They were taken to the Boscombe Day Centre in Owl Road, Boscombe, Dorset Police said.

People were also evacuated from the Beaulieu Garden Park Home in Christchurch, Dorset.

The Coastguard joined Kent Fire and Rescue Service to rescue people from the Little Venice Caravan and Marina Park in Yalding after rising waters from the River Medway cut them off.

The EA said that by last night 150 properties had been flooded in England, mainly in the south and focused in Surrey and Kent.

In Surrey residents were evacuated from their homes in Dorking, Leatherhead and Guildford, while more evacuations occurred in Tonbridge, Kent.

Some 40 properties were evacuated in Godalming because of concerns over the height of the River Wey, Surrey Police said, and a rest centre was set up for residents.

Met Office forecaster Kirk Waite said yesterday that heavy rain would bring “additional problems” to the places already dealing with floods.

Tragedy also struck in the run-up to Christmas Day, with the bad weather thought to have contributed to a number of deaths in rivers and on the roads.

Travellers trying to get home on Christmas Eve fought treacherous conditions and suffered major delays as the rail network was brought to its knees.

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