Flood warnings rise to 50 as storms strike

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The Independent Online

Gales and heavy rain were continuing to sweep across much of Britain last night, bringing further suffering to areas of the West Country, Wales and western Scotland already badly disrupted by last week's severe weather.

Gales and heavy rain were continuing to sweep across much of Britain last night, bringing further suffering to areas of the West Country, Wales and western Scotland already badly disrupted by last week's severe weather.

The number of flood warnings across the country rose to 50 yesterday with the rivers most seriously at risk named as the Wye in Hertfordshire and the Monnow in south-east Wales. The remainder of the flood alerts were issued for Wales, the Midlands and the South-west.

In Ireland, rescuers who have spent four days searching for a man feared drowned in the swollen river Barrow in Athy, Co Kildare, recovered a body yesterday.

Wales has been particularly badly hit over the past few days. Families have been forced to evacuate their homes in the face of rising river levels and burst water and sewage mains that were unable to cope with the deluge. In Monmouth 20 families were forced to flee their mobile homes after their caravan site was engulfed by the overflowing river Wye. At Clydach the rain caused a landslide, forcing the authorities to close the village primary school until tomorrow while engineers worked to prevent further damage.

With a forecast of more rain, high winds and possibly hail storms later today, the Environment Agency warned of a serious risk of flooding on the river Severn from Tewkesbury to Worcester, from Gloucester to Tewkesbury and up the Severn estuary to Gloucester, while further south there were warnings on the river Yeo from Sherborne to Yeovil and on Winford brook at Chew Magna in Somerset. There were also alerts issued for the upper stretch of the river Avon at Bristol, the river Tone around Taunton, and streams at Monksilver and Doniford in Somerset.

On the South Coast, strong winds and giant waves forced police in Hastings to close the pier and the main seafront road to cars and pedestrians when gusts of more than 55mph tore scaffolding from buildings and sent waves crashing on to the promenade.

In Brighton, council seafront officers warned walkers on the beach and groynes they were at risk from the high seas. In Cornwall the relentless heavy rain was being blamed yesterday for the collapse of old tin mine workings, which swallowed the garden of a house in Redruth. Also in Cornwall, salvage experts were attempting to refloat a stricken cargo vessel that ran aground on a sandbank on Saturday, causing thousands of tons of timber, which had been stacked on deck, to be washed ashore at Whitsand Bay.

The 6,000-ton Maltese- registered vessel became stuck on the sand and shingle bank close to the cliff-face after suffering engine failure in mountainous seas 10 miles off the coast while sailing from Sweden to Libya.

By yesterday afternoon more than half a ton of oil had leaked from the ship, which is carrying 456 tons of fuel oil, 55 tons of diesel and 10 tons of lubricating oil. While experts attempted to pump out the remaining oil and fuel, members of the public descended on the shores to plunder the washed-up timber.

Pollution from a stricken vessel was also causing problems off the coast of Ireland yesterday. A Spanish fishing boat, Celestial Dawn, became trapped on rocks in Dingle Bay, Co Kerry, while trying to put to sea in high winds during the weekend.

Conservationists are concerned for wildlife in the area after the boat, which was carrying 39,000 litres of diesel, began to leak. They are particularly worried for the safety of a friendly dolphin called Fungie, which has become an important tourist draw.

A spokesman for the Irish government said: "Fungie is a huge tourist attraction around Dingle Bay and in the summer will swim alongside boats and leap out of the water to say hello. Usually people are delighted to see her but right now they want her to swim away – diesel and dolphins don't mix."

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