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RAIN OF TERROR; Four killed as storms bring new flood chaos.

Byline: GEOFFREY LAKEMAN

FOUR people were killed yesterday as torrential gales and storms again ravaged southern Britain.

Two teenage students - one the son of an England cricket boss - died when their car aquaplaned head-on into another in torrential rain.

And a couple in their sixties were found dead after their car was swept off a flimsy wooden bridge over a swollen river.

Floods returned to many areas and the awful weather brought even more delays for rail passengers.

Tara Dance, 19, and 17-year-old Alastair Tremlett were killed in the crash near Winchester, Hants.

Alastair's dad Tim is director of cricket at Hampshire and tour manager of the England Under 19s.

Tara, from Burley, Hants, was driving Alastair and three 18-year-old girls to a pub when her blue Peugeot careered across a dual carriageway into a BMW.

The girls were taken to hospital with serious leg and other injuries. The 58-year-old BMW driver was unhurt. Alastair was studying a sports management course at nearby Sparsholt college and wanted to be a riding instructor.

At their village home in Otterbourne, Hants, his 44-year-old dad said: "Alastair was a true horseman - he was never really into cricket. He was going to compete in the showjumping trials at Winchester on Sunday.

"He was a very shy and pleasant boy and had made lots of friends at college. He was a lovely son. We already miss him so much."

Police Sergeant Tim Ashman said: "There was a lot of surface water on the road and it would appear the Peugeot aquaplaned on a big puddle and slewed out of control.

"The weather played a significant role in this appalling tragedy."

The elderly couple swept to their deaths near Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon, were named locally as Norman and Jean Meadows.

The woman was found inside the Honda - which had been swept 30 yards and turned on its roof by the raging torrent - and the man's body further downstream.

It is believed they either tried to cross the flooded bridge or their car stalled in the torrent, plunging through the flimsy railings.

Coastguards and police, all in wetsuits, rescued a man stuck up to his waist in mud at a flooded caravan park in Dawlish Warren, Devon.

The rescuers called a helicopter from RAF Chivenor to join efforts to evacuate more than 160 people, including pensioners.

Doreen Saunders, 56, who runs a shop on the site, said: "All I have got is my purse, my mobile phone and my husband."

In Exeter the floods forced a pub landlord to give up his tenancy and look for another job.

Gordon Henderson had reopened the Cowley Bridge only a few days ago after clearing earlier damage.

The pub, next to the River Exe, has been flooded six times in four years and in October the insurance firm withdrew cover.

Mr Henderson said: "I am so fed up that I have given in my notice to the brewery. We will miss the pub but in a way I am glad we are going."

The Environment Agency issued 152 flood warnings and five severe flood warnings for rivers across England and Wales.

About 40 properties in Tiverton, Devon, were swamped as the River Lowman burst its banks.

The county's flood operations control room received 200 calls and there were a number of landslides and trees down. Many roads were impassable.

High winds forced the closure of the Severn Crossing near Bristol and a landslide closed part of the railway between Hereford and Abergavenny in Gwent.

At the height of the storm west Wales was practically cut off from the rest of the country when two major roads were closed by flooding.

Several people were rescued from their cars after getting stuck in rising waters - including a mother and her three children saved by firefighters in Pembroke.

More than 1,000 homes and firms in Monmouthshire suffered six hour power cuts as a result of the heavy winds overnight.

The highest rainfall was recorded in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, where 1.6ins fell in 12 hours.

Winds gusted up to 62mph in the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Rail passengers were hit hard while roads were blocked by falling trees and floods.

Trains in Wales, Devon and around Bristol were particularly badly hit by floods with South West Trains, Wales and West and First Great Western bearing the brunt.

The main Penzance-Paddington and Exeter-Waterloo, Exeter and Barnstaple lines were closed.

Railtrack warned that the track between Exeter and Taunton might not be back in service for a week.

Wales and West said sections of the line between Abergavenny and Hereford were washed away and that reopening "may take some time".

New Railtrack chief executive Steve Marshall admitted that "to get things pretty much back to normal, that's going to be towards Easter."

He added that Railtrack should have done more to tackle the problem of cracked rails, believed to have caused the Hatfield derailment which killed four in October.

Later the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions made it clear that Railtrack officials had told Thursday's rail action group meeting that passengers would see a "substantial improvement" in services by the end of January.

Meanwhile Railtrack announced that it plans to rerail about 20 miles of track this weekend - bringing even more delays.

CAPTION(S):

SWAMPED: The mainline to London at Exeter; SAFE: Rescuers carry an old lady to dry land; RESCUED: Caravanners in Dawlish Warren, Devon; DEATH PLUNGE: Two people died in this car found on its roof after careering off a bridge into a flooded river at Cheriton Fitzpaine; UNDER WATER: An aerial photo of Stoke Canon near Exeter yester=day; KILLED: Alastair Tremlett
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2000
Words:947
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