Rescuers pluck 150 people from floods as Welsh river bursts banks

Weathermen blame Atlantic jet stream for blowing in torrential rain – and warn that more is on the way

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rescue teams winched people to safety yesterday after holiday camps and caravan parks were battered by storms and flooded by overflowing rivers.

More than 1,000 people were moved from camps and villages around Aberystwyth in west Wales after the river Leri burst its banks amid gale force winds and driving rain. At least 150 people in the worst affected areas were sheltering in relief centres last night.

One lifeboat crew helping a stranded disabled man from a flooded caravan had to be pulled to safety itself by an RAF helicopter after the four-man team became trapped.

Some roads were submerged in several feet of water as the region received twice as much rain in 24 hours as normally falls during the whole of June. Four caravan parks were completely evacuated.

Residents described the scenes as "carnage", but said the community had pulled together, providing food and shelter to the vulnerable.

Jenny Evans, 42, of Stafford, who owns a caravan at the Beachside Caravan Park, said: "One of our neighbours, who is known as Nana Dot, had to be rescued from her static caravan. She is in her mid-seventies and had to be taken in the back of a pick-up truck. I've seen it flood before but nothing as bad as this. It's like we've had a month's worth of rain in 36 hours."

Wind speeds were measured at close to 70 miles per hour. Twenty-five homes in the nearby village of Talybont were evacuated in the early hours.

Ellen ap Gwynne, the council leader for the area, said: "Many people's homes have been ruined – some worse than others – so it won't be cleared up overnight, but we'll be working towards that."

Meanwhile, footage filmed onboard RAF rescue helicopters showed just how treacherous the rising waters had become. Winch crews were shown lifting people from a home that appeared to be almost submerged.

Forecasters suggested that summer was on hold for at least two more weeks, with the storms and heavy rain that have soaked Britain since the beginning of June due to last for most of the rest of the month.

Despite the occasional glimpse of sunshine yesterday, there were warnings of torrential downpours on the way over the next two days.

There will be little respite, with the wet weather continuing for the next week and possibly until the end of the month. Winds were measured blowing at up to 62mph in the south of England on Friday. But yesterday, it was Wales that took the brunt of the bad weather.

A spokesman for Environment Agency Wales said five flood warnings were now in place. "We have seen up to five inches of rainfall in 24 hours in this area," he said.

Meteorologists have put the unseasonably bad weather down to the jet stream moving in an abnormal direction. Jet streams are a zone of fast-moving winds, typically flowing around the globe about six miles above the Earth's surface.

At this time of year the Atlantic jet stream would normally take a path past the north-west of Scotland, bringing rain to the North-west and drier weather to the South-east.

However, this summer it is getting stuck in across southern England, bringing with it low-pressure systems that have resulted in the wettest April on record and a miserable June.

Reid Morrison, a Met Office forecaster, said: "The jet stream is heading towards Spain and the Biscay area, further south than usual, so we are in the track for areas of low pressure streaming in from the Atlantic – which is the cause of the bad weather."

He added: "We expect it will remain unsettled for this coming week, with some bright spots in the South. But there will be showers and persistent rain from Monday onwards. The South-east might see more settled weather towards the end of the month, but the North and the East will continue unsettled and can expect more rain."