Easter flood warnings after torrential start to holiday

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They may have been banned from bringing their own cars, but not even heavy rain and traffic chaos could stop thousands of Grand Prix fans from following the scent of racing diesel fumes yesterday. They trekked for miles with camping gear on their shoulders after officials at Silverstone refused to allow spectators' vehicles into the qualifying sessions.

In a move believed to have wiped out the forecast £3m profits for the race, Silverstone organisers opted to close all public car parks after torrential rains severely flooded the fields they had set aside for traffic.

Police set up road blocks on all roads seven miles from the track, turning away unaccredited vehicles and forcing the most determined fans to walk through the rain in order to watch the event.

The car parks should be open today provided the bark laid out yesterday to soak up the water has done its job.

It wasn't just Silverstone that suffered from the rain. Flood warnings were issued across southern England as the Met Office revealed that the region had already seen three times more rain than is usual over the whole Easter weekend.

Amber warnings were in force on the River Avon upstream of Rugby and on the Ouse Washes at Sutton Gault and Earith in East Anglia yesterday. According to the Environment Agency, a total of 30 yellow river warnings were in force, concentrated mainly in the south - but stretching as far north as the Midlands.

The increased rainfall yesterday had capsized two competitors in the Devizes canoe race and forced organisers to abandon the 53-year-old annual event. The drenched canoeists were pulled from the Thames at Windsor, in the early hours of Saturday morning by a team of police officers and fire fighters. A further four competitors were rescued from a nearby island.

Hours later a rescue team was called in to save a dog that had fallen down a manhole at Sidcup Rugby Club in Kent. Sam, a golden retriever, ended up frozen with fear inside a putrid concrete sewage pipe. The rescue crew used poles, chisels and a lasso in their attempts to free the pet from the pipe.

However, for road travellers at least, the rest of the Easter break promises to be incident-free. Drivers can expect to be spared further traffic chaos following the revelation that holidaymakers are expected to extend their time away, returning over the early days of next week rather than in unison tomorrow.

A police helicopter that crashed on a house in Cardiff late on Friday night had been forced to make an emergency landing a week earlier when lights on the control panel warned of an outbreak of fire, it emerged yesterday. The pilot managed to land safely and checks later revealed faulty instrumentation.

The helicopter, operated jointly by the Gwent and South Wales police forces, was checking reports of a stolen car in the Coryton area of the Welsh capital when it spiralled down on the semi-detached home of Diane and Colin Patterson. The roof and first floor were wrecked but the couple, who were downstairs at the time, escaped unhurt.

The crew - two police officers and a civilian pilot - were rescued uninjured with neighbours bringing ladders to the scene to help them down.

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