Heavy rain puts southern England and Wales on flood alert

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The Independent Online

More than 90 flood warnings were in place across England and Wales last night as firefighters in southern England rescued people from cars on flooded roads and homeowners sandbagged their properties.

More than 90 flood warnings were in place across England and Wales last night as firefighters in southern England rescued people from cars on flooded roads and homeowners sandbagged their properties.

Several people were trapped in cars after misjudging water depths, the Kent fire brigade said. A man and his three children were rescued from their car in Ash, near Dartford, Kent, when their car became stuck in three feet of water.

A PA Weather Centre spokesman said an inch of rain fell in the 24 hours to 10pm yesterday in southern parts of England. He said there would be some relief from flood danger today, with dry spells predicted – but rain was likely to return on New Year's Day.

The Environment Agency's "flood warning" level is one notch lower than the severe flood warning level that indicates serious risk to homes and life. Yesterday, Wealden District Council in East Sussex issued 150 sandbags to homes in villages around the Cuckmere and Uck rivers.

In Yalding, one of the worst-hit Kent villages of the October 2000 floods, Medway tributaries burst their banks in places.

The Kent fire brigade reported calls from people wanting floodwater pumped from their properties. "We are advising people to acquire sandbags, wait until the rainfall is over and then make their own arrangements to pump the water from the property," Adam Eckley, the brigade's senior divisional officer said.

There were also reports last night that more than half a million homes in areas prone to flooding might not be covered by insurance from tomorrow because the Government had not done enough to defend homes against flooding. From midnight tonight insurers are not obliged to renew cover for homes and businesses in areas most at flooding risk. Previous estimates suggested that 200,000 homes did not have enough protection.

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