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Two drown rescuing dog as autumn storms wreak havoc

Couple were swept away by swollen river during floods that have forced hundreds from homes

Britain's worst autumn storm in three decades claimed the lives of a couple who were out walking their dogs near a flooded river in North Wales.

Alicia Williams and boyfriend David Platt, both aged 25, drowned after it is feared they went to the rescue of one of the five animals they were exercising in treacherous conditions on the River Clywedog, near Wrexham. The mother-of-one's body was discovered on a sandbank on Wednesday close to where her partner was also found.

Meanwhile, Swindon schoolboy Joe Compton, 11, who was struck by lightning as he stood in the car park of his school, was said to be in a stable condition in hospital. His parents thanked leisure centre staff who came to his aid.

This week's storm has left 570 properties flooded. Three days of heavy downpours led to rivers bursting their banks and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes. Last night the Environment Agency had in place 27 flood warnings and a further 36 alerts, nearly all of them in North Yorkshire and the North-east which has borne the brunt of the unseasonal weather.

In York the river Ouse was more than 5 metres above its normal level – the highest since 2000 when the historic city was badly flooded. More than 100 homes had to be evacuated while the water inundated the sewer system, causing it to discharge on to streets.

The Ouse is expected to remain high for up to 48 hours. Soldiers laid thousands of sandbags on top of existing flood defences at the nearby village of Cawood, downstream of York, saving hundreds of homes from damage. But people living close to a block of townhouses in Newburn, Newcastle, whose foundations were exposed when floodwater gouged out the ground under the building, were again evacuated yesterday. Newcastle City Council sought to reassure residents of Spencer Court that their homes were not in imminent danger of collapse. A small section of the northbound carriageway of the A1 remained closed in the Catterick area for much of the day but the Highways Agency. A40 mile section was closed on Tuesday.

York city's council leader criticised the Environment Agency following a delay to £3.2m planned flood defences. However, tourists and shoppers were told not to stay way from the city centre. Nearby Tadcaster was divided in two after water started seeping through a major road bridge.

The Met Office said the most intense September storm since 1981 was the result of the unusual position of the jet stream: the phenomenon which led to the wettest summer for 100 years. A return to more normal conditions is expected for the weekend.