Wind blows ferry on to mud flats: Homes flooded, roofs blown off and trees brought down as storms wreak havoc over holiday weekend

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A SQUALL blew a 6,387-ton ferry on to mud flats in Portsmouth harbour yesterday in an incident that typified a cold and windy Bank Holiday weekend.

More than 600 passengers were stranded for an hour as two tugs pulled the P&O-owned Pride of Winchester off and into dock. No- one was injured and the ferry was able to make its return journey to Cherbourg later in the day.

The London Weather Centre said it recorded winds of up to 60mph in Portsmouth. 'It was a freak squall,' P&O said. 'Two divers examined the hull and found it intact, so the ferry went back into service after about an hour. The passengers were all okay and were kept fully informed of what was happening.'

Last night a 4,000-tonne Russian factory ship with 77 on board ran aground a quarter of a mile from Lerwick harbour, in the Shetlands. A tug pulled the ship into the deeper water of Lerwick Bay where it was re-anchored. The Lerwick lifeboat remained at hand in case the ship's anchor dragged in the storm-force winds.

Nine people had to be rescued by the Guernsey coastguard when their boat began taking in water in a force seven gale off the Channel Islands. Two coastguards were slightly injured when the mast of the 52ft Sine Senorra, sailing from Plymouth to Guernsey, crashed on to their vessel in the operation.

Three of the boat's complement were picked out of the water by a rescue helicopter after being told to jump into 15ft high waves. The others were rescued by the lifeboat, the coastguard said.

Force nine gales lashed the Channel coast early yesterday as much of southern England was drenched by more than half an inch of rain. In Gravesend, Kent, meteorologists recorded wind speeds of 66mph.

Gerry Capstick, senior forecaster at the London Weather Centre, said the cold weather would continue for several days, although it would become calmer.

'It is being caused by a deep low-pressure area over southern Scotland,' he said. 'The low is drifting north but it will lead to cool and unsettled weather for some days.' The average temperature for this time of year was 20C (68F), he said. Yesterday, temperatures in parts of the North were down to 15C (59F).

Torrential rain brought misery to 50,000 at the Reading festival where police and council officials were trying to help recover hundreds of visitors' vehicles that had sunk in up to two feet of mud.

The bad weather kept the crowds down at the Notting Hill Carnival in west London, making it so far one of the quietist on record. Police said 70,000 had attended the carnival up to early evening, but the organisers put the number at 150,000. By 6pm there had been only 11 arrests, way down on last year's 54 on the first day.

In Folkestone, Kent, a dredger was beached off the coast, but none of the crew of three was hurt. In the Lake District, three teenage Scouts from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, were found safe after failing to return from a hike.

In Dyfed the roof of a house was blown off at Lud Church, near Pembroke Dock, and firefighters were called to pump out floodwater from homes in Narberth, Tenby and Whitland. More than 12 inches of floodwater swept through the Dairy Crest Creamery at Whitland, where the river burst its banks. Homes were flooded along the quayside at Bideford, North Devon, by a high tide.

The gales brought down trees across roads in the Home Counties and East Anglia, causing delays and diversions for traffic.

There were long hold-ups on the M25 motorway between junctions 10 and 11 near Woking, Surrey, after a 12-vehicle crash in which several people were injured. The clockwise carriageway was closed while emergency services cleared the wreckage.

Firefighters cut free a motorist from the wreckage of a car left hanging over the parapet of a railway bridge after a collision with another car on the Chaddesden to Swarkestone road near Derby.

Three people were killed and three others seriously injured when two cars crashed in driving rain near Waverton village on the A596 between Wigton and Aspatria, in Cumbria.

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