The Guardian LONDON, England: By Severin Carrell, Scotland Editor Eastern Scotland is braced for further heavy flooding and storm damage after the Met Office issued a second “danger to life” red weather warning, as the death toll from Storm Babet rose to three.
The emergency services rescued about 60 people from Brechin in Angus, but were unable to reach others stranded in their homes after the South Esk River surged to record heights, overwhelming flood defences erected seven years ago.
Police on Friday confirmed that three people have died in the storm. A man was swept away by a swollen brook in Shropshire on Friday and on Thursday, a van driver, 56, was killed by a fallen tree in Forfar. In a separate incident, a 57-year-old woman was swept to her death in the Water of Lee in Glen Esk.
The weather agency said the very rare red warning for severe flooding and disruption would cover parts of Angus and southern Aberdeenshire for the whole of Saturday, only hours after the first red warning for the region had lapsed at noon on Friday. It said another 100mm of rain could fall there on Saturday.
With nearly 40,000 homes without power across Aberdeenshire, Angus and Perthshire at times during the day, the authorities in Angus said the military may be called in if the situation worsened.
Amber and yellow rain and wind weather warnings were also put in place for Northern Ireland, the east coast from Fraserburgh in north-east Scotland to south of Harwich in eastern England, and inland across central Scotland, Cumbria, most of Wales and the Midlands.
With gusts forecast to hit more than 60mph in places, the storm brought chaos and disruption to large areas of eastern England and the Midlands, with local authorities in Suffolk declaring a major incident and closing schools.
In Chesterfield, Derbyshire, fire fighters rescued 30 people from their homes after the River Hipper flooded the town, affecting about 400 properties.
Rail lines in the Midlands were also rendered impassable by floods, while the dome of a lighthouse at South Shields was torn off by substantial waves. A Tui flight from Corfu landing at Leeds airport was blown off the runway, without reported injuries.
Hundreds of flood warnings were issued across Scotland and England, with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency putting out five severe flood warnings for the region affected by the red weather warning, 16 flood warnings and 11 alerts.
With scores of services already cancelled across the eastern Highlands, the north-east, Tayside and Fife, train operator ScotRail said services would remain unavailable until Sunday because of the severe weather, which also delayed safety inspections.skip past newsletter promotion
In England, the number of places affected by flood warnings escalated quickly with the Environment Agency issuing more than 200 warnings where flooding was expected across central, western, eastern and northern England, and 213 alerts.
Train services leaving London for Scotland on Friday were also cancelled, leaving passengers stranded. Natural Resources Wales also issued multiple alerts, with schools, rail lines and roads shut.
The Met Office said that the worst affected areas of Scotland saw up to 176mm of rainfall in southern Grampian and up to 103mm in Tayside over 36 hours; the average rainfall level for the area is normally between 100 and 130mm for the entire month of October.
The floods in Brechin, described as “a very serious emergency” by Angus council, left local people questioning why a 3.5m high flood wall, which was finished in 2016, failed to protect the town. During serious floods last November, the river was barely kept at bay, with water nearly reaching the lip of the flood wall.
More than 50 people sheltered in rest centres in Brechin after voluntarily leaving their homes or being rescued by the emergency services. Volunteers and local councillors had gone without sleep on Thursday night.
Emotions were running high. Cllr Jill Scott said: “Some people are angry, some people are distressed. It’s just such a challenging, stressful time for everyone.” The town’s flood defences would “definitely” have to be reviewed, she said. “There was an unprecedented level of rain; it was exceptional.”
Cllr Chris Beattie said that, although the number of donations from nearby communities had been fantastic, the situation was “hugely upsetting”. In places, the flow of the flood waters prevented rescue boats from reaching some homes.
He said the vast volume of rain that fell in the river catchment was too great. “The defences were designed about 10, 13 years ago, and they would’ve considered it to be the best specification,” he said. “However, the weather is changing.”
Elsewhere in Scotland, major roads were closed, including sections of the A9 in the southern Highlands and the A90 in Dundee and Aberdeenshire, with the Tay Road Bridge, the Dornoch Bridge and Forth Road Bridge closed to high-sided vehicles during Friday.
Ferry services in the inner Hebrides, to Shetland and within Orkney have also been cancelled, as were regional air flights operated by Loganair, with 16 flights in and out of Aberdeen airport cancelled.
TOP FEATURE PHOTO A resident looks out at flood water in Brechin, Scotland, as Storm Babet batters parts of the UK Andrew Milligan/PA