Flood victims hope dry spell holds

Hundreds of households hit by flash flooding are hoping predictions of a dry spell hold today after two motorists died in torrential rain.

Fire crews rescued dozens from their vehicles and homes as high winds, falling trees, flooded roads caused chaos across Britain yesterday.

The South West was the worst affected with roads in Devon and Somerset submerged under 18ins of water. Thirty people were pulled from their cars and homes and more than 200 people in Somerset found their cellars and ground floors under water.

The body of a pensioner was discovered inside a car submerged in Somerset floodwater at 6pm yesterday. The dead man, in his 80s, was pulled from the vehicle which was floating in Sandy Lane, in Martock.

The cause of his death is thought to be drowning or hypothermia.

A 22-year-old woman died in Dorset when her car crashed off the road during heavy rain.

Officers are investigating whether the weather was a factor in the accident on the A35 at Upton, Poole. It is thought the woman, from Poole, may have aquaplaned after hitting a standing water.

Last night The Environment Agency had 258 floods warnings in place, 100 in the South West, 48 in the Midlands, and 30 in Wales.

But today was set to be largely rain-free and with the worst of the rain over by yesterday evening, according to forecaster MeteoGroup UK, part of the Press Association group.

Spokeswoman Claire Austin said last night: "In the South West we've got a mainly dry day tomorrow. There's a band of rain clearing eastwards overnight.

"There's a fair bit of cloud with some sunny spells and some light winds, but it should stay dry.

"The worst rain has passed the south west now. There may one or two showers in the Cornwall area."

The country in general should be fair with no heavy rain anticipated, she added.

Chard, Ilminster, Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury and Street experienced the heaviest downpours.

Elsewhere in Britain emergency services were busy dealing with calls from householders and motorists caught up in flash floods.

A reduced train service was running between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads and trips between Paddington and Taunton, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and Penzance were suspended.

Most of the houses in one Somerset street - Hempitts Road, in the village of Walton - were flooded.

Residents Jane and Tony Bird said their 11-year-old son, Jack, who was sleeping on a mattress downstairs with friends, woke up "floating".

The Devon and Somerset control centre said at the height of the crisis yesterday it was taking one emergency call every two or three minutes since 5am.

Some lower floors of homes were under up to 4ft of water, and Bronze and Silver Command was activated in Ilminster to co-ordinate the response of fire and police services.

A spokeswoman in the Somerset control room said yesterday: "We've had 270 calls since 2am and most of those are relating to flooded homes.

"We are getting to properties but we are having to queue incidents because there's such a large volume."

Sandbags were provided and blocked drains are being pumped out.

The River Cale in Wincanton, Somerset burst its banks and the recreation ground and some nearby bridges were impassable.

In Dorset, 18 homes in Rowan Close, Southill, Weymouth, suffered several inches of floodwater, damaging presents placed under Christmas trees in some houses.

In neighbouring Wiltshire, the fire service said it had been "very stretched" with 80 calls to flooded homes, and 150 999 calls in total.

Officers attended a dozen incidents of water creeping into gardens in Gloucestershire. Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said it had been busy overnight with calls to flooding in the Fishguard area.

Firefighters were called to homes in Stourbridge, West Midlands, which flooded after drains overflowed following overnight downpours.

A block of flats in Emsworth, Hampshire, was evacuated early this morning when a 50ft tree branch fell, crushing two cars parked in the driveway. None of the 10 people taken to safety were injured.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said it had dealt with at least a dozen calls reporting flooded drains.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said it rescued one woman from the roof of a car after flooding in Crewe.

In Scotland a mission was launched to rescue 100 sheep "huddled" on top of a mound in a field in Perth, when the river Earn burst is banks.

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