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Mine memorial saves school in slurry landslide

A MEMORIAL marking the site of a former colliery saved a school in South Wales from disaster yesterday as torrential rains and winds continued to cause damage across the country. One man died at Blackpool when he was washed into the sea by high winds.

Thousands of tons of old coal waste slid onto the empty Tredegar comprehensive school in Gwent early yesterday after heavy rains on Tuesday had loosened a huge slurry tip. A pit wheel, left to mark the site of the Ty Trist pit closed in 1960, prevented much of the mud reaching the buildings. But the school yard was left thick with waste and classrooms flooded with mud.

Gordon Davies, the head teacher, said: 'It was fortunate that it didn't happen when the children were coming to school, making their way towards their classrooms.'

Memories of the 1966 Aberfan disaster, 10 miles away, in which 116 children died when a tip collapsed burying their school remain fresh in the valleys.

Elsewhere in Wales the floods closed dozens of roads and damaged scores of homes. Pontypridd in Mid Glamorgan was awash after the river Taff burst its banks. Joan McGrath, who lives near the river, said: 'We've been flooded before. Work to keep the water out never seems to be effective.'

Joyce Howells, one of a dozen householders flooded out at Aberaman, Mid Glamorgan, described how black mud rushed into her home: 'It rose a couple of feet and anything we couldn't get out of the way in time was ruined.'

The Wye and Usk valleys were turned into huge lakes and farmers hurriedly moved stock to safety as the waters rose.

Red alerts were in force on 19 Welsh rivers last night and Superintendent Richard Davey, of South Wales Police, warned that if the rain continued more homes would have to be evacuated.

In England, Darren Sadler, 25, of Cleveland, Lancashire, died when he was swept into the sea while walking along the North Shore at Blackpool. Also in Lancashire, a boy fell into the flooded river Lune but was rescued by a passer-by.

Two people were slightly injured when the Carlisle to Leeds train hit a landslide in Cumbria. BR said there were only four or five passengers on board.

High winds reaped havoc on many roads. In Birmingham flats were badly damaged and a number of roads were submerged beneath water. One 82-year-old woman, rescued from her bed as it floated around her bungalow, announced to the emergency services: 'I've got my swimming costume on.'

Many roads were blocked in the South-west after a further inch and a half of rain fell on Tuesday night on to already sodden ground and into swollen rivers. Rail services were also badly disrupted.

Volunteers from the Dartmoor Rescue Group braved force 10 gales to search for five students and a teacher lost overnight. They were found safe but suffering from exhaustion. The National Rivers Association said that 16 rivers in the South-west were subject to amber alerts.

Last night, the Thames valley had escaped the worst of the weather but forecasts warned of imminent flooding. All western tributaries of the river Thames were subject to amber alerts.