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With almost 70 weather warnings – Britain prepares for the worst

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 03, 2014

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More flood warnings have been issued as power companies were told to make sure they are prepared for the next big storm heading for the British Isles.

Heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 60mph are expected to hit western areas today, prompting nearly 70 flood warnings.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee, said "exceptional" weather was expected.

And he warned the energy network companies to be prepared for the latest storms following complaints it took too long to restore electricity to the thousands of homes left without power in the wake of severe weather over Christmas.

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Mr Paterson's comments came as the body of a 27-year-old man, from Surrey, was found by a member of the public on Porthleven Sands beach in Cornwall this morning. He had been swept out to sea on New Year's Eve night having gone for a paddle with friends at nearby Loe Bar.

In a second tragedy on Tuesday, a woman died after being swept out to sea at the popular beauty spot Croyde Bay in north Devon. The woman, who was believed to be on holiday with her family, was rescued from the sea and airlifted to hospital before being confirmed dead by doctors.

In Dorset a search was under way for a man who was believed to have fallen into the River Stour, near Iford Bridge in Christchurch on New Year's Day, but this was called off yesterday lunchtime after no one was found and no one was reported missing.

Areas particularly at risk today include the Isles of Scilly, the north and south coasts of Devon and Cornwall, Dorset and the coastline of Wales, while the risk of flooding is made worse by the high level of ground saturation from earlier heavy rain.

There are already 12 severe flood warnings, which are issued when there is a threat to life or property, as well as more than 230 flood alerts across the country.

In London, the Thames Barrier was closed to protect people and property along the river, the Environment Agency said.

Pete Fox, head of strategy at the agency, said: "We are expecting flooding along the west and south coasts of England and Wales, due to a combination of strong winds, large waves and high tides, from the early hours of Friday and into the weekend.

"Coastal paths and promenades could be highly dangerous as there is an increased risk of being swept out to sea. People are warned to stay away from the shoreline."

Bosses at energy network companies are due to face questions from MPs at some point when Parliament resumes next week.

They were criticised over the length of time it took to restore power to homes affected by storms over Christmas, while Prime Minister David Cameron was confronted by one angry resident in Yalding, Kent, during a visit to see flood damage last week.

More than 150,000 homes were cut off after strong winds, rain and flooding caused damage to power networks but yesterday Mr Paterson said he expected the power companies to do their best to prepare for the latest storm.

"We are looking to have a combination of exceptional rain, wind and a surge in sea and high tides and so there are nearly 50 warnings put out around the whole of the west coast and south coast.

"We had a range of ministers from right across Government attending the meeting, who will be working very closely with local councils, power companies, utility and transport companies, making sure that all of those organisations are absolutely prepared for the bad weather that is coming."

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