2 dead, 500 homes affected as storm soaks southwest England
The Guardian in London
The British government has pledged to help victims of widespread flooding across the country, as gale-force winds and torrential rain claimed the lives of two people.
A 21-year-old woman was killed when a tree smashed into her tent while she was sleeping, near the Exeter city centre, while a 70-year-old man died after his car crashed into a swollen river in Cambridgeshire.
The government said yesterday that almost 500 homes and businesses had been flooded, mainly in the southwest of England and the Midlands. Overnight, four severe flood warnings (which meant lives were in danger) were issued for Cornwall, southwest England, though this was later reduced to two.
Dozens of sections of roads in the southwest, including the M5 and M50, were flooded. Landslips and flooded lines caused delays and cancellations to train services.
Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that the government would do everything possible to assist the flood victims. On Twitter, he said: "Shocking scenes of flooding in Cornwall and around the country. [The government] will help ensure everything is being done to help."
In Exeter, the woman was crushed in the tent shortly before midnight, and two men also believed to have been inside the tent were injured. Police were investigating why the three were in the tent.
The 70-year-old motorist in Cambridgeshire was pulled from his vehicle by passersby and flown to hospital by air ambulance, but did not survive.
Police warned people in flood-hit areas against unnecessary travel and wading through contaminated floodwater.
Emergency services also reported flooding from the Avon River in the historic town of Malmesbury, Wiltshire, where the water was 90cm deep in places.
A spokeswoman for the Wiltshire fire and rescue service said: "It's been building up there for a few days and has flooded now in the area down by the river. … We've rescued four people from two properties - three people from one house and a [man] with asthma from another."
Chris Harvey, watch manager at the town's fire station, said: "It's the worst flooding I can remember in the town, certainly worse than in 2007 when there were problems."