New Year Flood Disruption For South Coast

Heavy rain has led to more floods on the South Coast at the start of 2014.

Thousands of people across the UK are still recovering after storms last week caused widespread misery, with power cuts and flooding ruining Christmas for scores of families.

The Met Office issued a severe weather warning for rain on New Year's Day, affecting southern England and western Scotland. There are still several Environment Agency flood warnings and alerts in place for the South Coast, mainly in Dorset.

They include the Lower Stour from Sturminster Marshall to Christchurch; Christchurch Harbour; the Lower Frome from Dorchester to East Stoke; and the West Coast of Dorset including Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Burton Bradstock, Chesil Beach and Chiswell.

The coastguard is also searching for a man who is believed to into the River Stour in Christchurch.

Portland Coastguard led the search near Iford Bridge from 7pm yesterday and a rescue helicopter, inshore lifeboat and the Wick ferry were called to help the emergency services.

Jennet Chisholm, Portland Coastguard watch manager, said last night:

"All the rescue units are working in very challenging conditions with rain and strong winds, but so far have been unable to find any sign of a missing man.''

There are blocked roads in Hampshire and Dorset this morning, including the Eastern Road in Portsmouth, the A35 and West Stafford Road in Dorchester and Winchester Hill in Romsey.

There is disruption on the South West Trains services between Redbridge and Romsey and Southampton Central and Fareham due to flooding.

There are also power cuts in parts of Southampton and Chichester.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will chair a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee today in response to the flooding problems.

The minister has stepped in to ensure that the Environment Agency (EA) and councils "are on the ground and offering all possible support to their communities'' as bad weather continues to hit the UK.

With further warnings of widespread flooding and more severe weather forecast for tomorrow, Mr Paterson will lead a Cabinet Office Briefing Room meeting in London this morning as agencies plan their response to the problem.

He said last night:

"We will remain in touch with local councils in at-risk areas.

"With a number of flood alerts for the South East for tomorrow, including several areas which have previously been flooded, I urge everyone in affected areas to sign up to EA flood warnings and follow the advice issued.''

The strong winds led to the traditional New Year's Day charity swim at Stokes Bay in Gosport being cancelled yesterday for the first time in more than 30 years.

In a message on their website, organisers Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service said:

"We regret to inform you that for the first time in over 30 years, due to the forecasted severe weather, we have cancelled the New Year's Day Swim.

"The sea conditions are expected to be too dangerous for swimmers and so we ask people not to attend and enter the water of their own accord.

"May we take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us in 2013 and we wish you all the best for the coming year."

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