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100-mile traffic jam

THOUSANDS of families heading for the West Country faced a nightmare start to their holidays yesterday, sitting in a 100-mile traffic jam. It stretched along the M5 from Gloucestershire to Cornwall, with steady rain adding to the misery in some areas.

Traffic ground to a virtual standstill and congestion restricted speeds to between 10 and 15mph when progress was possible. 'A hundred miles of the motorway have been bumper-to- bumper,' said an AA spokesman, and the entire stretch of the M5 from Worcestershire to the West Country was hampered by hold- ups for most of the day.

Reporting several accidents on the M4 and M5, police said: 'People were driving too close together on wet roads.'

A seven-mile tailback faced drivers heading over the Severn Bridge into Wales while Lancashire, Staffordshire and Cheshire saw several delays on the M6. And the M55 to Blackpool was congested. In East Anglia, there were long queues of caravans on the A45 and A11. Another blackspot was the A47 Norwich by-pass and the approach to Great Yarmouth.

Two women in their twenties died when their hired car crashed into the back of an Army convoy and burst into flames on the M4. near Swindon, Wilts.

Four military lorries were carrying Territorial Army volunteers from Swansea to Aldershot. Police said the women's Vauxhall Astra slammed into the back of the final lorry as the four vehicles were travelling at 30mph.

The car wedged beneath the lorry and as vain efforts were made to prise open the doors, the car burst into flames. The women inside were burned to death as they became engulfed, a police spokesman added.