Woman dies in Storm Babet with hundreds of homes evacuated

Police close River Street in Brechin as members of the fire service ask residents to evacuate due to flood warnings (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Police close River Street in Brechin as members of the fire service ask residents to evacuate due to flood warnings (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A woman has died after flooding caused by Storm Babet saw hundreds of homes evacuated, while thousands were hit by power cuts across Scotland.

First Minister Humza Yousaf led tributes to the 57-year-old woman who was swept away at the Water of Lee, Glen Esk, just before 2pm on Thursday.

Efforts were made to convince residents of Brechin, Angus, to evacuate 400 homes, with the coastguard and fire crews going door-to-door after some people refused to leave.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) issued a warning that river levels could reach an “unprecedented” five metres above normal levels, and severe flood warnings were expanded for the River Esk, including into Aberdeenshire.

Sepa added the villages of Logie Mill and Craigo to places at risk of severe flooding in Angus, as well as Brechin and nearby Finavon and Tannadice, while the village of Marykirk, Aberdeenshire, was put on high alert.

Angus experienced the highest rainfall in the UK on Thursday, according to data from Sepa. The Met Office revealed that Riverside Perth experienced 112mm rain, followed by Invermark – which had 107mm.

More than 20,000 homes in Scotland lost power, according to Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), predominantly in Aberdeenshire and Angus. By 9pm, SSEN said it had restored services to almost 18,500 homes.

Following the news of the woman’s death, Mr Yousaf wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “Such sad news. My thoughts are with the family, friends and loved ones of the woman who has sadly lost her life.”

Autumn weather October 19th 2023
A resident puts sand bags outside his door in Brechin (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Aberdeenshire Council warned residents to be ready to leave imminently and more than doubled the number of rest centres to five, from two earlier in the day.

The Met Office red weather warning began at 6pm and was expanded to include Dundee, Perth and Kinross, as well as Angus and Aberdeenshire, where 20ft waves were seen crashing in Stonehaven harbour.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 1.45pm on Thursday, officers attended a report of a person having been swept into the Water of Lee, Glen Esk.

“Around 4pm, the body of a 57-year-old woman was recovered from the river. There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

Autumn weather October 19th 2023
A man ties up his boat at Stonehaven at the start of Storm Babet (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Schools were closed in Angus, while funerals were cancelled in Aberdeenshire.

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison said authorities expected to “launch a major clean-up operation as we move into the weekend”.

Waves hit Stonehaven harbour
Waves hit Stonehaven harbour (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Paddleboarding instructor David Jacobs, 56, said he saw waves around 20ft high in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, and expects it to be worse on Friday.

Mr Jacobs said: “The waves were about 20ft, or seven metres.

“The last time I have seen weather like this was 2014, it is quite spectacular to watch but bits of trees and rocks land onto the road.

“It worries me for other people.”

Aberdeenshire Council issued instructions to residents who may have to evacuate.

It said: “If the police, council or other emergency services, ask you to leave your home turn off the electricity and water supply at the main switch and take your grab bag with you.

“If you have to evacuate your home, it will make things a lot easier if you have prepared a ‘Grab Bag’ in advance containing a packing list to follow should you need to use it.”

A spokesman for Angus Council said: “As ever, we will be targeting our energies and resources on the areas of greatest need, focusing on preserving life and ensuring the safety of our citizens.”

Pascal Lardet, Sepa flood duty manager, said: “There is exceptional rainfall forecast for parts of Scotland over the next 24 hours, and this will lead to significant flooding from both surface water and rivers.”