South submerged for second time

Flood warnings
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The Independent Online

The heavy rain and unseasonal blizzards, brought by the most violent storm to hit Britain since the hurricane of 1987, led the Environment Agency to issue 25 severe flood warnings in southern England and Wales.

The heavy rain and unseasonal blizzards, brought by the most violent storm to hit Britain since the hurricane of 1987, led the Environment Agency to issue 25 severe flood warnings in southern England and Wales.

The floods also threatened to again hit towns that endured the flooding which affected the south two weeks ago. In East Sussex, the towns of Lewes and Uckfield were put on alert after yesterday afternoon's high tide.

Archie Robinson, the Environment Agency's director of operations, said that "virtually all" of southern and central England and Wales were badly affected. As he spoke, parts of the M25, M23 and M11 motorways were closed by flooding, bringing parts of London to a standstill.

But his fears that much of South-east England was at risk of even heavier flooding were not fully borne out. Rivers in Kent and Sussex peaked without further flooding. Only the river Rother burst its banks at Robertsbridge, East Sussex, during the late afternoon.

Although severe flood warnings were kept in place as a precaution, fears that the number of warnings would rise receded yesterday evening. An agency spokeswoman said: "As long as there is not heavy rainfall at night we have seen the worst of it, but the severe weather is predicted to return at the end of the week."

The flood waters and power cuts led to scores of schools in Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside being closed. Pupils at Clare Mount special school in Moreton, Wirral, were sent home after water flooded their classrooms.

In Kent, the river Medway in Maidstone burst its banks, flooding riverbank walkways and threatening buildings such as the Archbishop's Palace. Staff at Hever Castle, the family home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's first wife, had to rescue antiques, furniture and carpets from rising water levels from the river Eden.

Avon and Somerset police closed all roads leading into Taunton to all non-emergency traffic, and sent loudhailer vans to tour five other Somerset towns warning of imminent floods.

As parts of southern England and the Midlands endured two inches of rain in 12 hours, the chaos on the roads worsened when blizzards hit Manchester, the Pennines and northern England. Royal Marines at a base close to the village of Norton Fitzwarren in Somerset deployed amphibious vehicles to help residents and businesses cope with the worst flooding in memory after a foot of water flooded their homes and shops.

The Anchor Inn, near Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley, endured much of the worst of the flooding when it was hit by a 5ft-high deluge of muddy water from the river Wye. "It was like a tidal wave, sweeping towards us," said Barbara Butt, the landlady.

Motorists caught by sudden flooding at Hopkinstown, in the Rhondda Valley, and at Welshpool, mid-Wales, were rescued by firecrews using inflatable dinghies.

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