Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Britain hit by worst floods in years

EMERGENCY Hundreds of people were stranded, while military and police helicopters scrambled to help rescue those trapped in cars or taking refuge

AFP AND THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Three people were killed and hundreds stranded on Monday as torrential downpours caused widespread chaos and the worst floods seen in northern Britain in years.

Rainstorms dumped as much as 75mm of rain on a country already soggy from an exceptionally wet June, Britain's weather office said. At one point on Monday afternoon, the Environment Agency had issued 38 flood warnings.

Several hours of effort from rescuers including police divers was not enough to save a 28-year-old man in Hull who died after becoming trapped while trying to clear a flooded drain.

Police in nearby Sheffield said they had recovered the body of an unidentified young man, though his body was found downstream from where a teenage boy was earlier reported to have been swept up by the floods.

They later confirmed that a 68-year-old man was killed in the city as he got into difficulties attempting to cross a flooded road.

Hundreds of people were stranded in Sheffield, where military and police helicopters were scrambled to help rescue people trapped in cars or taking refuge from the fast-rising floodwaters on rooftops.

"It's very difficult to get an actual understanding of how many people, but we are talking in the hundreds of people affected by this sea of flooding," emergency coordinator Flight Lieutenant Ronnie Metcalfe said.

Britain's Environment Agency, which monitors weather risks nationwide, issued 16 severe flood warnings and 102 standard flood warnings throughout the country.

Elsewhere in Britain rivers broke their banks, flooding roads and homes from Devon in southwest England, to Yorkshire in the north.

Nick Ricketts, a national forecaster at Britain's Meteorological Office, said some parts of Britain had an entire month's worth of rain just in a few hours.

The 28-year-old man died after spending four hours trapped in a burst drain on Monday. Firefighters and divers tried to rescue him after he became stuck up to his neck in water when his foot got wedged in a manhole grate.

The man, named by his employer as Mike Barnett, was thought to have been trying to clear the manhole to stop flooding. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service said the situation in the Hessle area of Hull, northeast England, was "horrible."

Witnesses described seeing Barnett becoming submerged as the water levels rose and losing consciousness as the emergency crews struggled to free him.

He was given a tube to breathe through and emergency services were said to be on the verge of amputating his foot before the freezing temperatures became too much for him and he was pronounced dead.

Barnett, who worked at a local fish farm, became trapped at about 10.30am, dying four hours later.

Meanwhile, officials in Rotherham yesterday urged residents living near Ulley Dam to leave their houses after warning the walls of the dam at the 14 hectare reservoir could break.

"We have taken professional advice from an engineer, who said there is a significant risk that the dam could fail," Rotherham Council spokeswoman Tracy Holmes said.

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