And weathermen say there's more to come: Flood alerts are in force on 155 rivers, insurers estimate the damage at pounds 60m and now six inches of snow adds to the chaos. Esther Oxford reports

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The Independent Online
FLOOD damage was estimated to have risen to pounds 60m yesterday. And as flood alerts were issued for 155 British rivers the London Weather Centre said rain and showers will continue until Monday.

At the Association of British Insurers, Tony Baker, head of public affairs, said the pounds 60m estimate could rise much higher if rain kept 'topping up' the flooding.

Snow turned to sleet overnight, moving up from the Isle of Wight as far as Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and East Anglia. The temperature fell to -2C but a warmer front is expected to bring heavy rain to Scotland, Northern Ireland and eastern England, a spokeswoman from the London Weather Centre said. Roads and farmland close to the Thames are thought to be at particular risk from flooding: in the first five days of the year, two inches of rain has fallen in the area - half the monthly average.

Rail services have also been hit. Passengers travelling from London to Glasgow and to Bristol and the West Country have faced delays of up to an hour and the disruption is expected to continue.

Kevin Bond, director of operations at the National Rivers Authority, said emergency teams had been deployed by the NRA to make sure flood warnings reached the emergency services and local authorities quickly.

There was heavy rain in Scotland, where Carterhouse, in the Borders, saw nearly one inch fall overnight, and in Northern Ireland, where Ballypatrick Forest recorded almost half an inch.

The West Country has been hit particularly badly. The river Severn remains high, particularly between Worcester and Tewkesbury, and a six-inch snowfall has added to disruption.

A pregnant woman in Princetown, Devon, had to be rescued by a police Land-Rover when the ambulance carrying her to a hospital in Plymouth became stuck in six inches of snow.

In Chaceley, near Gloucester, a pub landlady has been marooned inside her pub for three weeks. In the freezer is pounds 3,000 worth of pheasant, partridge and grouse, bought for the Christmas customers who never arrived. 'We've only had 14 customers since before Christmas. We've been relying on friends to spend an hour rowing food out to us and an hour rowing back,' said Sally Day, who runs the Yew Tree Inn.

Meanwhile at St Mawes, Cornwall, a mudslip demolished a sewage pumping works. South West Water said it was forced to discharge waste water into the sea for a number of hours, but that it had consisted largely of storm water and very little sewage.

Waste water is now being taken by tanker to a nearby sewage treatment works until temporary pumps can be installed at the St Mawes station.

Customers of the bookmakers William Hill were doing their best to look on the bright side: odds of 16-1 on a rain-free Wimbledon fortnight and 25-1 on the UK reaching 100F this summer, have been offered to forward-looking optimists.

(Photograph omitted)