Homes Evacuated And Thousands Without Power As Storm Frank Wreaks Havoc

Hundreds of homes have been evacuated and thousands are without power after Storm Frank battered the UK with heavy rain and high winds.

Residents in Scotland were the latest to endure the misery of being forced from their homes by foul weather as the third named storm in a month hit the country, causing widespread disruption.

Further torrential rain also hit the saturated north of England, with people in Croston, Lancashire, urged to immediately evacuate their homes.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn became the latest figure to criticise the Environment Agency for its handling of the crisis, ahead of a visit to York today.

Mr Corbyn said he planned to question officials about 10 "high volume pumps" the party claims the agency owns but has not deployed to the North.

Mr Corbyn said last night: "Tomorrow I am meeting officials from the Environment Agency (EA) emergency response team in York.

"I will raise with them why they have failed to deploy these brand new pumps that looks as if they could have helped significantly in alleviating some of the worst impacts of the floods in the north of England."

Labour's criticism comes from an October Environment Agency report in which it says it had bought "10 one cubic metre per second capacity high volume pumps, which have now been received and are being stored at Bradney Depot in Bridgwater, Somerset".

But the EA defended its response, adding one of the new pumps had been deployed to assist the clean up in Cumbria earlier this month.

A spokeswoman said: "During a major flood incident we are able to use equipment from across the country to help communities affected by flooding.

"During December we moved 43 pumps and around 5,000m of flood barriers from other parts of the country to flood-hit areas in the north of England to help reduce the risk of flooding to communities."

Mr Corbyn's visit to the North comes three days after Prime Minister David Cameron visited York and defended flood prevention funding.

The EA's chairman Sir Philip Dilley earlier visited flood victims in Yorkshire, after he returned from a Christmas holiday to Barbados amid criticism at the timing of his break during some of the worst storms in decades.

In Scotland 12 people, including two children, were rescued from a bus after it was stranded in flood water as Storm Frank swept across Scotland.

Ten passengers were airlifted by a Royal Navy helicopter from the vehicle when it became stuck in Dailly, South Ayrshire, at about 1.35pm on Wednesday.

A further two people were taken off the bus by officers from Police Scotland's marine unit.

Flood waters also affected the village of Ballater in Aberdeenshire near Balmoral Castle, the Queen's summer residence.

Villagers were evacuated after around 200 homes would be without power overnight due to severe flooding.

Severe flood warnings in place at Croston were downgraded by the EA, but two issued by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency remained in place on the River Tweed in Peebles in the Borders and Whitesands in Dumfries and Galloway.

In England and Wales, more than 30 flood warnings and over 130 lower level flood alerts were in force.

In Northern Ireland 300 homes are without power after thousands were cut off overnight, while more than 6,000 homes in Scotland lost power, with engineers hampered by conditions.

South of the border, Western Power Distribution has reconnected more than 20,000 homes in the Midlands, South West and Wales with about 900 still off the grid.

Transport links also suffered after Frank rolled in from the Atlantic, with high winds shutting the Clifton Suspension Bridge for only the second time in its 151-year-old history before it was reopened around lunchtime.

Roads have been flooded including a stretch of the M4 motorway near Cardiff, while the torrent of rain also caused a landslip at Rest & Be Thankful in Argyll, Scotland, closing the A83.

The storm also took its toll on the Grade-II listed Victorian Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare in North Somerset, which partially collapsed in the high winds.

Gusts of up to 55 knots, or about 63 mph, disrupted flights in and out of Belfast International Airport where planes had to be held or diverted.

Police arrested a 40-year-old man on suspicion of theft after residents concerned about looting from flooded homes raised the alarm. West Yorkshire Police officers responded to reports in the Mytholmroyd area about a man acting suspiciously near wrecked properties earlier this morning.

A force spokesman said the man, from the Dewsbury area, remained in custody and inquiries were continuing.