Scorched by the sun, choked by the smog

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The Independent Online
The Government yesterday urged motorists to think twice before using their cars as air pollution levels soared on the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures of 34C/94F recorded at Heathrow. Forecasters predicted the hot spell would continue for at least another week.

Motorists could help improve air quality if they took the Government's advice and left their cars at home when possible, the environment minister, Robert Jones, said. The department issued a leaflet to every GP's surgery in England and Wales making a series of suggestions for drivers. The last time the Government made such an appeal, last July, it claimed that 10 per cent of motorists stopped using their cars.

The Automobile Association welcomed the move, but said a longer-term approach was needed to avoid pollution problems in future. "This is a year-round problem that is just worse in the summer." said a spokeswoman. "The important point is that people should remember the need to reduce pollution after the hot weather has ended."

The department's appeal to motorists came less than two weeks after the new Environment Act gave local councils powers to carry out surveys on pollution hot spots and prepare anti-pollution plans. Closures of roads during smog risk times is one possibility.

Meanwhile, the heatwave continues to take a tragic toll as the number of children who drowned on Monday rose to five. Police yesterday named a 10-year-old who died off the Norfolk coast as Graham Raddon of Exeter. After getting into difficulties near Cromer pier, Graham's 11-year-old brother managed to get to the beach and raised the alarm. His grandfather swam out and rescued the boys' eight-year-old sister. But it was an hour before Graham was found and flown to the James Paget Hospital, Norfolk, where he died two hours later.

A 10-year-old girl who drowned while bathing in the river Severn in south Shropshire was named by police as Lindsay Shepherd from Bentley, Walsall, West Midlands. She had gone into shallow water at the side of the river to cool off while friends fished near by but was caught by currents and carried into deeper water.

Three children who also drowned on Monday were named yesterday. Malcolm McGrath, 9, of Billinge, Merseyside died after being found floating unconscious in a lake at the Mere Brow leisure complex, Tarleton, Lancashire; Andrew Milven, 8, of Nisbet Hill, Duns, Borders drowned after diving into the River Tweed; A 16-year-old boy drowned in a reservoir at Blackburn, Lancashire was named as Jonathan Ashebu, of Lytham Road, Blackburn. His body was recovered by police divers.

Insects have caused problems in many parts of Britain. Villages throughout the picturesque Meon Valley in Hampshire have been attacked by an almost biblical plague of flies. Local shops have run out of insecticides.

In North Wales, tourists were forced to run for cover after a swarm of ladybirds landed on a holiday resort. Shops on Rhyl's promenade locked their doors as thousands of the insects swooped. Jan Matthews, 38, a holidaymaker from Manchester said: "It was amazing - people were crunching them underfoot as they ran for cover and others had to shake their clothes out to get rid of them. Even the beach patrol headquarters looked as if it had been painted red."