Thousands stranded on Merseyside

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By last night the excitement of a day at the races had turned to misery, with more than 20,000 racegoers stranded on Merseyside. Most of the spectators had travelled to the Aintree course by car and coach, and while they were being evacuated, their vehicles were left behind the security cordon thrown around the racetrack by the police. The result: tens of thousands of people needed somewhere to stay and a bed for the night. Hotels and boarding houses in Liverpool and neighbouring towns were quickly filled, leaving many more racing fans with nowhere to go.

Local councils joined forces with the police. Racegoers were taken to a central meeting point - the Albert Dock on Liverpool waterfront - and from there moved on to emergency shelters set up in church halls, sports centres and schools across the region.

At Everton Park Sports Centre, 500 were fed chicken and chips by staff who responded to an emergency call from manager Alan Gregory. "We have got 500 people who are going to have to sleep in the sports hall," he said. "They range from children to pensioners; we have worked this out as part of the disaster emergency plan but we never envisaged anything quite like this."