Two dead as floods hit Wales and north

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The Independent Online
TWO MEN are feared dead after torrential rains and high winds brought chaos to large parts of Britain. Forecasters also warned that the worst of the weather is yet to come, with 70mph winds and more heavy rain expected today.

One of the two missing men is feared to have been swept away after he fell into a swollen river at Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, on Thursday afternoon. High water levels have prevented police divers from searching the river.

A police helicopter search was also under way for a farmer who disappeared after leaving home to tend to his cattle left marooned by heavy rainstorms on the English-Welsh border.

West Mercia Police said the man, 62-year-old William Mason, failed to return after leaving home on his tractor in the village of Clifford, Herefordshire, early yesterday.

The police fear Mr Mason, may have drowned. A West Mercia spokesman said officers had "very serious" concerns that Mr Mason could have been swept away in the River Wye near Clifford.

Police, who said the farmer left home on his tractor early yesterday morning, confirmed the alarm was raised when his dog returned home alone.

The spokesman said Mr Mason had not been traced after a police search involving the force's helicopter, emergency services and local residents.

"The farmer had been driving a Massey Ferguson tractor, but despite a search by emergency services and local residents neither the farmer nor the tractor were located."

The spokesman added that the Wye at Clifford is several feet above its normal levels and rising. "The alarm was raised when Mr Mason's dog returned to the farm without its owner," he said.

"Further aerial searches were made by the police helicopter, but again there were no sightings of Mr Mason or his tractor. Clearly there are very serious concerns that Mr Mason has entered the river and it may be some time before this can be checked fully."

Wales, meanwhile, has been affected worst by the flooding, with 3ins of rain falling in some areas in the 24 hours to yesterday. In parts of South Wales the flooding is the most severe in 20 years, with water up to 3ft deep flowing through residential areas after several rivers burst their banks. Police and fire crews evacuated scores of residents to shelter in local schools and emergency centres.

Red flood alerts are in force on 19 rivers across South Wales. The Environment Agency warned residents to stay on alert because of the forecasts of more heavy rain.

Mid Wales, Scotland and the North-west and South- west of England have also been affected by floods. Six rivers in the South-west were put on amber alert on Thursday night, with a further 13 yellow alerts being issued.

Many people were mopping up in the west of Scotland yesterday, where several roads remain closed in the aftermath of Thursday's downpours.

Officials at the PA WeatherCentre said that while some heavy showers and thunderstorms were persisting in Wales, they were expected to clear up yesterday afternoon.

But after an overnight lull, even worse weather is set to sweep in from the West today.

Senior forecaster Michael Dukes predicted: "The weather will be making headlines before the end of the day. We are expecting even heavier rain affecting much of the country, and very strong winds reaching up to 70mph.

"Wind that strong is enough to cause some structural damage, such as blowing off roof tiles or uprooting trees."

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