Driver dies as rain and wind bring parts of Britain to a standstill

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The Independent Online

A driver was killed in treacherous road conditions yesterday as torrential rains lashed across large swathes of Britain. The 22-year-old woman crashed into a fence at a roundabout in Poole, Dorset, in the early hours of morning, and police are investigating the theory that her vehicle "aquaplaned" after hitting a pool of water.

Rescue teams helped dozens of people trapped in their cars across the country on a day of 75mph gales, relentless rain, hail and unpredictable flash flooding. Worst hit were Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, where 300 homes were flooded in the deluge, and residents were warned to stay away from roads, some of which had been transformed into rivers. Other routes were blocked by fallen trees, uprooted by the sudden gusts. Some homes were flooded by water half-a-metre deep.

Fire services were inundated with 999 calls, and a spokesman said the services were "very stretched". As the storms spread north, the West Midlands, Cheshire, Wales and Scotland were also hit by the downpour, with more flooding to cellars and basement flats.

Around 100 sheep were rescued from a deluged field in Perth.

The Environment Agency issued 199 flood warnings. Norman Evans, of Devon Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Driving conditions were very poor. There's a lot of mud off the fields, and that in turn has caused a lot of accidents. People have been stuck in between 18in and three feet of floodwater. Every time we get a report of someone stranded, we treat it as a life-threatening incident."

Train services between London and the south-west were cancelled or were running with long delays. The rail company Great Western yesterday advised its passengers to cut their losses, telling them that their tickets would be valid today.

One road in the Cornish town of Hayle became extremely dangerous after an inch of hail fell. Three minor crashes took place within a half-hour period at lunchtime.

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