Four feared dead in worst flooding for a century

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The Independent Online
TWO PEOPLE died and another two, including a 14-year-old boy, were missing yesterday as torrential rain brought the worst flooding for a century to parts of Britain.

The body of a middle-aged man was recovered from a flooded caravan park on the banks of the Avon near Evesham after the floods left hundreds of people homeless. And a woman was found dead, believed drowned, in a badly flooded part of Northampton.

Police and firefighters carried out a series of rescue operations across the Midlands, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire as forecasters predicted more rain at the start of the Easter weekend.

Norman Edgington, regional manager of the National Rivers Authority, said: The flooding in the river Avon area is the worst since records began in 1900 - the river is 15 metres above its normal level."

Firefighters worked round the clock to save people from the River Mead Caravan Park, in Worcestershire, after the river Arrow rose by four metres during the middle of the night and the site was engulfed.

Families huddled together on top of their caravans as water swept through the park, reaching roof level in some parts. Some were winched to safety by helicopter and others were rescued by boat.

One rescue boat struck a submerged tractor and the two firemen and four caravaners were tipped into the swirling water in the pitch darkness, but they were eventually found.

David O'Dwyer, chief of Hereford and Worcester fire service, said all the brigade's 800 firefighters worked round the clock to rescue people. "The water on the caravan sites was at least 6ft deep in places and the river speed is running at 11 knots, which is extremely fast".

In Warwickshire, rescue teams were yesterday searching for a 14-year- old boy who disappeared when a van was swept from a flooded road into a ditch at Eathorpe, near Leamington Spa.

The van was washed into the ditch as it tried to overtake broken-down vehicles stranded in floodwater. It was quickly submerged but the driver managed to climb on to the roof and was eventually rescued by a police officer. The boy could not be found however. Steve West, Warwickshire Ambulance Service's director of operations, described the conditions as "desperate" and said they feared the worst.

Hopes were also fading for a 33-year-old woman believed to have fallen from a narrowboat on a flooded river in Northampton.

More than 300 people were rescued from their homes and moved to emergency centres in Buckingham and Banbury, Oxfordshire, where the torrential rain caused the river Cherwell and the Oxford Canal to merge.

An RAF helicopter was called out to rescue 19 anglers who became stranded in the middle of a lake near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, after the water level rose by 9ft in an hour.