Floods hit much of country as the big freeze melts away in unseasonably warm weather

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The Independent Online

Heavy rain and thawing snow brought flooding to many parts of England and Wales last night as the big freeze gave way to warm and windy weather.

Heavy rain and thawing snow brought flooding to many parts of England and Wales last night as the big freeze gave way to warm and windy weather.

Thirty-five flood warnings were in force and a further 77 places were on flood watch last night as forecasters predicted the wet - and unseasonably warm - weather would continue until the weekend.

Parts of East Anglia, the Midlands and the North-east were most in danger of flooding, the Environment Agency said. Warnings were issued for 18 rivers in the Midlands, eight in the North-east and three in East Anglia, where a further 26 rivers were being watched for possible flooding.

York, the scene of severe and repeated flooding in recent years, was again under water as the river Ouse burst. Severe flood warnings were issued for five points along the river and there was localised flooding in the east and around York and Northallerton.

Temperatures were expected to reach 16C in parts of the South today - close to the average expected in May - and steady downpour was forecast for the next 72 hours.

A spokesman for the PA WeatherCentre said: "The thaw is more or less over now. A lot of the snow in Scotland has melted. Until Wednesday night there's band after band of rain moving through. Across the West there will probably be between three and four inches of rain before then."

In North Yorkshire, seven people were rescued by helicopter late on Sunday after their vehicles became stranded on a flooded road, police said. The helicopter was called when police could not get near the people, stranded in two cars on the A684 near Aysgarth.

The group, which included an elderly couple, were winched to safety and taken to hospital in Northallerton.

The Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly experiencedwinds of up to 83mph, and gusts reached 70mph in southern England, forcing the temporary closure of the Dartford bridge in Kent and the M48 old Severn bridge in Wales.

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