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Storm Dennis: Experts warn flooding could be worse than Ciara

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The UK is preparing for a second weekend of weather disruption, as experts warn Storm Dennis could inflict more damage than Ciara when it arrives.

Severe weather warnings are in place for most of the UK – and forecasters say a month’s worth of rain could fall in some places.

The Army is being deployed as extra support in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Road, rail and air travellers also face disruption, with British Airways and easyJet flights among those affected.

It comes after Storm Ciara flooded hundreds of homes last weekend.

The Environment Agency has warned flooding is likely to be worse this weekend as already saturated ground is met with a “perfect storm” of heavy rain, strong winds and melting snow.

Amber warnings for rain and yellow warnings for wind are in place for most of the country from Saturday afternoon into Sunday evening.

This means flooding could cause a danger to life, power cuts are expected and there is a good chance transport links will be impacted.

Calderdale Council said military personnel were being deployed to support recovery efforts from last weekend’s flooding and preparations for Storm Dennis.

Army troops may also be used to keep residents informed.

Council leader Tim Swift said their presence would be a “reassuring sight” for residents of “already exhausted communities”.

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EasyJet has cancelled 234 flights to, from and within the UK – affecting at least 40,000 passengers.

Almost 150 departures and arrivals have been cancelled at London’s Gatwick Airport, the airline’s main base.

An easyJet spokesperson said the company was offering customers the option to transfer their flight for free or a refund.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for our customers and to arrange alternative travel,” they said.

However, passenger Rich Collie, whose flight to Edinburgh to Geneva was cancelled, said that he and his family had not heard from the airline since receiving a text on Friday night to notify them of the cancellation.

They decided to take an alternative flight from Manchester with a different airline, at the additional cost of about £900.

“You don’t expect a lot from a budget airline but a little bit of communication would have been great,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“The thing that really frustrated everyone that I was talking to was that they’re not giving you any alternatives.”

British Airways has grounded 40 departures to and from Heathrow on Saturday afternoon and evening in a bid to protect the rest of the schedule, merging some short-haul flights that are travelling to the same destination.

Network Rail is also advising passengers to expect delays and cancellations to services due to flooding, and to allow more time for their journeys.

The LNER train company has already cancelled dozens of services between London and the North East of England.

Other companies say services could be affected by speed restrictions as well as fallen trees and debris on the line.

Households living near rail lines have been asked to secure any loose gardens items, after several trampolines were blown on to the tracks last weekend.

It comes on a particularly busy weekend with many families having booked to travel over the half-term school holiday.

The worst-hit areas could see between 120-140mm of rainfall and gusts of up to 80mph over the weekend, the Met Office said.

The predictions are not as severe as last weekend when Ciara brought as much as 184mm of rain and gusts reaching 97mph, resulting in hundreds of homes flooding and more than 500,000 being left without power.

But experts have warned Storm Dennis could cause more flooding damage, because of the heavy rain falling on parts of the UK still recovering from Ciara.

John Curtin, the Environment Agency’s executive director of flood and coastal risk management, said Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire were the areas he was most “concerned” about.

“This [storm] could be a step up from what we have seen before,” Mr Curtin said.

“We had a big storm last weekend, [we now have] saturated catchments, snowmelt and rainfall, so it is a perfect storm.”

Visitors battle strong winds during a thunderstorm at the annual Whitby Regatta, August 2019

Getty Images

Weather warnings guide

  • YellowSevere weather possible, plan ahead, travel may be disrupted

  • AmberIncreased likelihood of impact, eg travel delays, power cuts

Source: Met Office

The Environment Agency said preparations were under way to operate flood defences, flood storage reservoirs and temporary barriers to protect communities.

These include the Foss Barrier in York, the Thames Barrier in London and another in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on the River Severn.

UK power operators say they have employed extra engineers and call centre staff to respond to any possible impact of the storm, after widespread power cuts last weekend.

Newly appointed Environment Secretary George Eustice said he had spoken to local flood response groups across the country on Friday.

Highlighting the Environment Agency’s preparations, he added: “We are fully focused on ensuring that communities are protected and have access to the support and advice they need to stay safe this weekend.”

At least 800 homes in the north of England and many other areas are at risk of being flooded over the weekend as Storm Dennis unleashes heavy rainfall.

That is the assessment of the Environment Agency which is warning that persistent intense rain will fall on ground already saturated.

Snow now lying on higher ground will be melted and will add to the threat.

The agency’s head of flood defence, John Curtin, told a media briefing that 800 homes were flooded last weekend during Storm Ciara and that “my feeling is that this will be at least as bad, probably more so”.

Over the course of the winter so far, 7% of 400 river gauges have set new records for water height.

Mr Curtin said temporary flood defences were being deployed in many places but added it was too early to tell exactly where the most intense rain would fall.

He said he was most concerned about Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria but parts of Wales, south-west England, the Midlands and south-east England could also be at risk.

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The Met Office has amber warnings for rain in pockets of northern and south-west England, and Wales from 12:00 GMT on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday.

An amber warning is also in place for most of southern England from 00:15 until 18:00 on Sunday.

On Saturday morning, there were 14 flood warnings – meaning flooding is “expected” – and 141 flood alerts – meaning flooding is possible – in place across the country.

Yellow warnings for strong winds and heavy rain also cover all of England, Wales and southern Scotland between 09:00 GMT and midday on Saturday.

Further yellow warnings for wind are in place for northern parts of the UK from midday on Sunday until midday on Monday – potentially bringing travel disruption to commuters.


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Baby photos: Should Bounty be allowed to snap newborns?

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Mothers-to-be can be served up an overwhelming amount of information and advice prior to giving birth. What many are not told about, however, is they could get a visit from a professional photographer while on the maternity ward recovering from delivery.

The service is offered at more than 150 UK hospitals by pregnancy firm Bounty, which, as well as selling the photos, distributes free samples and vouchers to new parents in packs given out at maternity appointments, baby sale events and through its apps.

The company, which was formed in 1959, said its research indicated the vast majority of new mothers expected and welcomed a hospital visit from its reps.

But some claimed the presence of Bounty staff was intrusive and have questioned whether a postnatal ward was an appropriate place for a money-making service.

‘We’ve never displayed our Bounty pics’

Sarah Jackson White, 37, from Glossop in Derbyshire, was visited by a Bounty photographer at Tameside General Hospital in October.

She said she felt the company should not be allowed to canvass for business from new mothers in maternity wards.

“I felt pressurised into having a photoshoot, even though I said I already had one booked for the following week,” she said.

“Of course when the lady showed us the preview clip, we felt overwhelmed and bought the whole package.

“Looking at the photos now, I wouldn’t have bought them if I wasn’t so emotional. I’ve never even displayed one.”

‘I was trying to breastfeed’

Rebecca Corcoran, 32, from Burgess Hill in West Sussex, said she was approached twice by a Bounty representative after giving birth at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath in June 2018.

“Bounty came to me on the second day I was there but I refused as my daughter was unwell,” she said.

“The lady came back on the fourth day. I had the curtains shut and was trying to breastfeed my daughter who was still unwell.

“She opened the curtains and just said, ‘I’m blah-blah from Bounty and we won’t be here over the weekend so I have to take pictures now’.

“With everything going on, I just agreed. I never bought the pictures – I had my own done when at home.

“I felt uncomfortable and my privacy invaded and pretty stressed.

“I am pregnant now and I do not want Bounty to visit me when I’m in hospital because I won’t be so quiet this time.”

‘Bounty visit was lovely’

But not all new mothers have found it a negative experience.

Demi-Louise Pashley, 25, from Tibshelf in Derbyshire, gave birth at King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield in March 2016 and October last year and said she was happy to be photographed by Bounty on both occasions.

“With my first child, although I was in need of a lot of care afterwards, it was lovely to have someone come and fuss over you and your baby,” she said.

“Although I felt awful, I wanted my baby’s photos taken for that amazing keepsake and memories of those first few moments.

“We bought a large pack but knew the expense would be worth it to have those pictures to treasure.

“It’s all down to personal choice. If people believe strongly it’s something they are being pressured into, then possibly there should some sort of opt-out form when women are completing their birth plans.”

‘Pictures are important’

Kelly Williams, 37, from Ripley in Derbyshire, was 16 when she and her first child were snapped by a Bounty photographer at the City Hospital in Derby, in March 1999.

She said: “I was approached by a midwife first who asked me if the Bounty photographer could pop on to the bay I was sharing with four other women.

“I was very tired so asked if she could pop back the following day, which she agreed.

“The photographer was very kind and approachable. I was never pressured into anything.

“She sat with me and to be honest it was nice to have someone to chat with, especially being a young mum.

“I think pictures are important and I hope Bounty continues to take time to go on to wards, to capture these moments for women.

“If you don’t want them taken, just say no it’s as simple as that.”

Why do hospitals allow Bounty in?

NHS England said it had no national agreement “of any kind” with Bounty and any deal to allow the firm into postnatal wards would have been agreed with individual hospital trusts.

One of these is the University of Leicester NHS Trust, which revealed at a recent health scrutiny meeting that it earned £5,647 in the first six months of 2019 from allowing Bounty into its two hospitals.

Strategic director Mark Wightman said a fee was paid for every Bounty bag handed out and a percentage of the profits made from photography sales was also paid to the trust, with both contracts periodically reviewed.

Elaine Broughton, the trust’s head of midwifery and nursing, said money made was used to replace equipment on the wards.

But Leicester city councillor and mother-of-two Melissa March said the trust’s contract with Bounty made her feel “really uncomfortable”.

Speaking at the meeting, she said: “If it were any other kind of post-surgery or recovery ward and photographers were coming in and taking photos of you and your child and the hospital was receiving remuneration for that, it does feel deeply intrusive.

“It’s the most vulnerable you might ever feel, I couldn’t get out of bed.

“Also, sometimes you’ve been awake for five days straight, you don’t know what on earth to do with this tiny human you’ve just had and then someone comes in to take photographs.”

In 2018, Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust introduced an opt-out card to allow mothers to request they were not approached by anyone from Bounty while on a maternity ward.

The trust said the scheme had proved to be “a great success” and was still in operation two years later.

And questions had been asked about the arrangement before. In 2013 parenting forum Mumsnet called for Bounty’s sales reps to be banned from NHS maternity wards, criticising the firm’s “harassment tactics”.

What does Bounty say?

Bounty’s website pointed out the photo opportunity was the only “sales” part of its representatives’ roles, and said about half the new mums they saw opted to have the portraits taken.

The firm told the BBC great care was taken by its representatives when they were allowed on to postnatal wards.

A spokesperson said: “Bounty fully supports and acknowledges the need to respect the privacy and dignity of families on the maternity ward.

“We are committed to ensuring every mum we meet in hospital experiences an excellent bedside service from our staff.

“Research shows that the vast majority of new mothers enjoy, expect and welcome our services.

“Bounty has been meeting mums in hospitals for over 60 years, providing essential support and information to generations of new parents.

“We work closely with the NHS to ensure our services are offered on the basis of choice and that they comply with the standards required by our hospital partners.”

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Coronavirus: Schools to be advised not to close over suspected cases

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Schools do not need to close or send staff and pupils home if there is a suspected case of coronavirus, new guidance is to recommend.

Public Health England will say no restrictions or special control measures are needed while tests are carried out on a suspected case.

If a case is confirmed, health protection teams will speak to the head teacher and action will be taken.

PHE is expected to issue the new guidance later.

It comes a week after at least seven schools in Brighton, Hove and Eastbourne were understood to have told parents that either a staff member or pupil has been advised to stay at home for 14 days by PHE.

Schools messaged parents saying they would authorise absences for families wishing to self-isolate.

The Department of Health said on Sunday that 3,109 tests have been carried out in the UK so far, with nine positive results.

This is an increase of 117 tests on the 2,992 reported on Saturday.

Eight of those who contracted the virus have since been discharged from hospital after recording two negative tests for the strain known as Covid-19.

All 94 people who had been in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral have also been released, NHS England said on Saturday.

They had been kept in isolation at the hospital after returning to the UK from Wuhan in China, the centre of the outbreak.

More than 100 people remain in isolation in Milton Keynes after being repatriated back to the UK on a later rescue flight.

But Britons on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have accused the government of “forgetting” about them after other countries confirmed they were bringing their citizens home.

David Abel called for the government to evacuate the British citizens on board and added: “It feels that we have been forgotten.”

Mr Abel’s call comes as it emerged passengers could be stuck in quarantine beyond the initial 19 February deadline.

So far, 355 of the 3,700 people on board the ship have tested positive for the virus.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We sympathise with all those caught up in this extremely difficult situation.

“We are urgently considering all options to guarantee the health and safety of the British people on board the Diamond Princess, in line with the latest advice from the chief medical officer and the World Health Organization, and are working closely with the Japanese authorities and our international partners.”

What are the symptoms of coronavirus and what can help stop its spread?

The main signs of infection are fever (high temperature) and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Frequent handwashing with soap or gel, avoiding close contact with people who are ill and not touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands can help cut the risk of infection.

Catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, binning it and washing your hands can minimise the risk of spreading disease.

Anyone experiencing symptoms, even if mild, after travelling from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau, is advised to stay indoors and call the NHS 111 phone service.

What is the government doing?

The main focus is on rapidly identifying people with the disease and taking them to specialist hospitals for treatment in isolation.

They are then tracing anybody who has come into close contact with the patient to make sure they know the signs of the disease and what to do.

The coronavirus death toll in mainland China rose by 105 to 1,770, in figures announced early on Monday morning.

Chinese authorities also reported the number of new cases had increased slightly on the previous day’s figure after falling for three consecutive days.

A total of 2,048 new cases were reported across the country on Monday – 1,933 of which were from Hubei.

More than 70,500 people nationwide have already been infected by the virus.


Have you been affected by the issues in this story? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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Flooding hits as Storm Dennis continues to lash UK

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Flooding has hit parts of the UK as heavy rain and strong winds caused by Storm Dennis continue to lash the UK.

Firefighters rescued people in south Wales, where the Met Office issued its first red rain warning – meaning there was a likely risk to life – since 2015.

Homes have also been flooded in Herefordshire, where one resident said the storm had hit “like a tornado”.

More than 300 flood warnings have been issued across the UK, as rivers continue to rise.

Authorities have issued two severe flood warnings in England, two in Wales and three in Scotland, which also mean there is a danger to life.

Sarah Bridge, 55, compared Storm Dennis to a tornado and said water had flooded her home in Pontrilas in Herefordshire despite specialist flood doors, reaching her knees.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “The kitchen is completely flooded, I can hear things floating about downstairs.”

The red rain warning in south Wales, which lasted until 11:00 GMT, advised residents to “take action” to keep safe from dangerous weather and avoid travel.

Wind gusts reached 91mph on Saturday, according to the Met Office, while 142mm of rainfall was recorded at the Cray Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

Jessica, who is on holiday with her family in Crickhowell, Powys, to celebrate her mother’s 60th birthday, told BBC Radio 5 Live that firefighters woke them at 04:00 GMT to tell them they were being evacuated because the River Usk had burst its banks.

But water quickly came flooding into their holiday home, forcing them upstairs and stalling their evacuation.

“The door of our house burst open and water came flooding in right up to the top of the stairs which was quite nerve wracking at the time,” she said.

She added: “It’s well over the front door of the house, it’s flooded all the way up to the ceiling.”

In Pontypridd, bar worker Jack Jones said he had to leave work on Saturday evening as water from the River Taff entered the bar.

“It came from nowhere,” he said. “To come down this morning and see it like this is quite shocking.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge that the UK government was “stepping up its response” to extreme weather conditions.

He said it had put £2.4bn into defences over a six-year spending period up until next year, and would allocate £4bn for the next six-year period.

Of the flood warnings, more than 200 apply in England,more than 70 in Wales, and more than 40 in Scotland – where two people had to be rescued after their car was swept off the road near Newcastleton.

In York, the Environment Agency has predicted the River Ouse could come close to record levels seen in 2000.

Properties were flooded in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, on Sunday morning – and residents were urged to take “extreme care” by the area’s Environment Agency manager.


Across the UK road, rail and air travellers also face disruption.

About 170 flights were cancelled as of Sunday morning, affecting at least 25,000 passengers.

The storm has caused disruption at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Southend, Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick airports over the weekend.

Rail services have been suspended across south Wales, and in parts of England and Scotland, according to National Rail.

Highways England said strong winds had closed part of the M48 Severn Bridge eastbound and the QEII bridge at the Dartford Crossing, while flooding closed A-roads in South Yorkshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire.

Amber warnings for rain and yellow warnings for wind are in place for most of the country into Sunday evening.

This means flooding could cause a danger to life, power cuts are expected and there is a good chance transport links will be impacted.

On Saturday, the body of a man was pulled from the sea off the Kent coast.

The man was declared dead at the scene in Herne Bay after emergency services were called at 12:15 GMT. Kent Police are not linking his death to Storm Dennis.

The force said it was not known how the man had entered the water and his death was “not being treated as suspicious”.

A second body was found by the RNLI at about 13:00 GMT on Saturday after a seven-hour search in “rough seas” for a man who fell from a fuel tanker off the coast of Margate.

In other developments on Saturday:

  • The Army helped residents shore up flood defences in Ilkley and Calder in West Yorkshire
  • EasyJet cancelled about 350 flights over the weekend – almost 100 of these are to and from London’s Gatwick Airport
  • About 60 flights were grounded at London’s Heathrow Airport. Most of them are British Airways
  • Rail passengers across the country were urged to check before travelling, with delays and cancellations expected on certain routes
  • For more information, check the BBC Weather website and your BBC Local Radio station for regular updates

Last weekend Ciara brought as much as 184mm of rain and gusts reaching 97mph. It also caused hundreds of homes to be flooded and left more than 500,000 people without power.

But experts have warned Storm Dennis could cause more flooding damage, as already saturated ground is met with a “perfect storm” of heavy rain, strong winds and melting snow.

Visitors battle strong winds during a thunderstorm at the annual Whitby Regatta, August 2019

Getty Images

Weather warnings guide

  • YellowSevere weather possible, plan ahead, travel may be disrupted

  • AmberIncreased likelihood of impact, eg travel delays, power cuts

Source: Met Office


Have you been affected by Storm Dennis? Get in touch by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Read this and more articles at BBC Sussex

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