Storm Dennis wreaks deadly havoc across flood-hit Britain

Joe JACKSON
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A record 594 flood warnings and alerts were in place Storm Dennis swept across Britain

A record 594 flood warnings and alerts were in place Storm Dennis swept across Britain (AFP Photo/Oli SCARFF )

London (AFP) - Britain on Monday battled the fallout from Storm Dennis after the second severe storm in seven days left one woman dead over the weekend.

Winds of more than 90 miles (140 kilometres) an hour, along with more than a month's worth of rain in 48 hours in some places, led officials to issue rare "danger to life" warnings.

A 55-year-old woman was found dead after being swept away by near the flood-prone town of Tenbury Wells in western England.

"We are all devastated," her family said in a statement after a body was discovered.

James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, which is responsible for flood protection, said more than 400 homes in England had been flooded while at least 1,000 agency staff were working "to protect and support those communities which have been hit".

"This is not yet over," he told BBC radio.

"We still have many flood warnings in force and we may still see significant flooding in the middle of this week from larger rivers."

The storm also pummelled much of France, with some 20,000 people without electricity on Monday after suffering power cuts in the northwest.

- 'More extreme' -

In Britain, more than 600 warnings and alerts -- a record number -- were issued on Sunday, extending from the River Tweed on the border of England and Scotland to Cornwall in the southwest.

After a day of torrential rain, major flooding incidents were declared in south Wales and parts of west central England.

In northern England, the defence ministry deployed troops in West Yorkshire, which had also been hit by flooding from last weekend's Storm Ciara.

There were fears that rivers there could burst their banks.

Newly appointed environment secretary George Eustice said the government had done "everything that we can do with a significant sum of money" to combat increased flooding.

"We'll never be able to protect every single household just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme," he said.

Youth climate activists gathering for a national conference in Staffordshire, west central England, were forced to cancel the event because of the storm.

"There's a bleak irony in our being beaten back by climate change," 15-year-old attendee Sophia said in a statement released by organisers.

- 'Supercomputer' announced -

Two rivers in south Wales burst their banks on Sunday, prompting rescue workers to launch operations to evacuate hundreds of people and their pets trapped in their homes.

Police said a man in his 60s died after entering the River Tawe, north of the Welsh city of Swansea, but later clarified that the death was not "linked to the adverse weather".

Meanwhile the bodies of two men were pulled from rough seas off the south coast of England on Saturday as the storm barrelled in.

Britain's Coastguard said it had sent a helicopter and rescue team to join navy and other search vessels after receiving reports of a man overboard in the sea near Margate, Kent.

"After many hours of searching, a body was sadly found in the water... and was brought to shore," it added.

Around the same time in nearby Herne Bay, emergency responders discovered another dead man following reports a person had been pulled from the sea, according to Kent police.

In a timely announcement the Met Office, Britain's national weather service, said Monday it would invest £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) in a state-of-the-art supercomputer to improve forecasting.

The government claims it is the world's "most powerful weather and climate supercomputer".