Flash floods and thunderstorms cause chaos across the country

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The Independent Online
Emergency services across large parts of Britain were struggling to cope yesterday with extensive damage brought on by overnight flash floods and violent thunderstorms.

Emergency services across large parts of Britain were struggling to cope yesterday with extensive damage brought on by overnight flash floods and violent thunderstorms.

About 50,000 homes were without power across south Wales, and rescue workers in north Wales, the south-west of England, and the west of Scotland were stretched to the limit. Many peoplewere forced to leave their homes, while other parts of Britain basked in warm sunshine.

In the north Wales seaside town of Llandudno, 24 pensioners were rescued from their homes in a housing association complex and seven caravans were washed into the river Lliw, near Snowdonia. Flood waters reached a depth of 60cm (24 inches) at the height of the thunderstorms, which began on Tuesday night, forcing some motorists to abandon vehicles.

Landslides were reported on several roads in the region and farmland was submerged as rivers burst their banks. The Conwy valley in north Wales was particularly hard hit and the area was put on flood alert.

In south Wales, 38mm (1.5ins) of rain fell in the Cardiff area overnight forcing the closure of seven schools.

About 10,000 people in Avon and Somerset were also without power yesterday. Several buildings were struck by lightning, including a BBC office in Bristol, where a piece of masonry was knocked on to a satellite dish. Radio programmes experienced technical faults during the day as a result.

The worst of the storms in Scotland struck the area south of Glasgow, where up to 30mm (1.2ins) of rain fell in an hour, and dozens had to flee their homes. A fire engine was abandoned by its crew after getting marooned in flood waters, and a factory was struck by lighting. Firefighters had to evacuate houses and cars in the Hamilton and East Kilbride areas, and Strathclyde Fire Brigade was inundated with calls to a string of incidents between 11pm on Tuesday and 2am yesterday.

Hundreds of homes in the area were blacked out. A spokesman for Scottish Power said electricity supplies to 2,000 homes had been cut as overhead power lines were struck by lighting. "We had teams of engineers on the ground ready to respond to any problems and they worked through the night to restore supplies," he said. Thousands of calls to the emergency services were made as water leaked into roofs and power supplies were cut off. Dozens of council workers were called out to provide emergency cover.

A spokesman for Scotland's South Lanarkshire Council said: "Some of the streets in the Clydesdale area were like small rivers. We deployed a small army to help people, providing sandbags and starting to mop up as the waters went down."

A spokeswoman for Western Power Distribution, the distribution arm of the South West Electricity Board, said about 22,000 people in the area were still without power at noon yesterday. "Our helicopters will be used ­ weather permitting ­ to further pinpoint damage caused by lightning," she said.

Up to 100mm (4ins) of rain fell in some places in a matter of hours, with repeated lightning strikes. Some areas suffered as many as 100 lightning strikes in 30 minutes.

Bottles of water were delivered to 6,000 homes in south-west Kent by Gurkhas last night after foul-tasting algae contaminated mains supplies.

The Folkestone and Dover Water services production manager Terry Hutchins said the blue green algae was not poisonous but made drinking water taste unpleasant.