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11:07pm UK, Monday April 30, 2012
Parts of England and Wales are braced for more flooding as a man and his dog died after the car they were in became completely submerged in floodwater as it was crossing a ford.
It comes as the Met Office said this month has been the UK’s wettest April since records began in 1910.
The figures up to April 29 showed an average of 121.8mm had fallen (4.8in) so far this month. This was almost double the long term average for April of 69.6mm (2.7in) and beating the previous record of 120.3mm (4.7in) set in 2000.
At least 40 flood warnings and 172 flood alerts are in place, with flooding expected or possible in parts of southern and eastern England, the Midlands and Wales.
With up to 20mm to 30mm (0.8in to 1.2in) of rain forecast for southern England overnight, the Environment Agency is on “high alert” for floods amid fears already-saturated river catchments will struggle to cope with more downpours.
The South West is seen as being particularly at risk of more flooding, including Somerset, Dorset and Devon.
The ford in Compton Wood, Hampshire, where the tragedy happened
A man and his dog died when the car they were travelling in became completely submerged in “5ft of fast-flowing water” as it was crossing a flooded ford in Hampshire.
Emergency services said his 54-year-old wife, who had been driving, managed to escape from the vehicle after it got stuck.
The 52-year-old man, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene in Compton Wood.
Inspector Jon Snook said: “We believe the car drove into the ford from the Hampshire side where it appears as though it was swept downstream and became submerged.
“On arrival, we co-ordinated a rescue operation with the fire service to try and free the man. Unfortunately, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We know that the ford was flooded and we are now conducting an investigation to establish the exact circumstances of this incident and will be preparing a file for the coroner.”
Police also said the woman was taken to Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital, where she was being treated for shock.
Rain and wind have continued to wreak havoc in many parts of the country and high rivers from the weekend rain pose a danger to property.
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency (EA) said three incident rooms had been set up in the Midlands, while a further incident room was set up for the Wessex area in the south.
She said: “It’s not unusual to experience heavy downpours and some flooding – mainly of farmland – at this time of year, but we’re continuing to closely monitor the forecast and rainfall particularly in areas along the rivers Severn, Teme and Avon, including Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.
“Environment Agency teams are out on the ground continuing a close watch on river levels as well as checking defences and clearing any potential blockages to reduce the risk of flooding.”
The agency said only 20 properties had been flooded across the country, while thousands were protected by flood defences, including 600 homes in Taunton and 25,000 properties along the River Don through Doncaster and Bentley.
The heavy rain has caused the cancellation of the Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire, which were due to start on Friday.
Organisers admitted the decision was taken as there was no realistic chance of the ground drying out in time for the event.
Among the towns worst hit by the downpours are Taunton, in Somerset, and Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, which was devastated by flooding five years ago.
Midlands correspondent David Crabtree is in Tewkesbury, which he said was under more than two foot of water.
“In places there was around 2.2in of rainfall, which is well above the average,” he said.
“People in some places are preparing with sandbags to make sure that the water doesn’t get into their homes.
“I have to say, (the water) is still rising. We do hear that more rainfall is on the way.
:: Flood Alert – Means flooding is possible and that you need to be prepared.
:: Flood Warning – Means flooding is expected and that you should take immediate action.
:: Severe Flood Warning – Means there is severe flooding and danger to life.
Source: Environment Agency
“The Environment Agency say this above-average rainfall does help in terms of trying to alleviate drought conditions that are still in force here, but we’ll need similar kinds of rainfall over the next few months to get out of that situation.”
More than 1,800 households in Tewkesbury were forced to move out of their homes and into temporary accommodation by torrential rainfall in 2007.
The latest downpours come at the end of a particularly wet week for England and Wales, in which 42mm (1.7in) of rain fell in the South East and 55mm (2.2in) in the South West, which has now had 166% of the average rainfall for April.
Many areas at risk of floods are currently in a state of drought, which is gripping the South East, East Anglia, the Midlands, the South West and south and east Yorkshire after two unusually dry winters in a row.
Tewkesbury was badly hit by floods in 2007
While some parts of Britain can hope for a reprieve, the South West shows no sign of drying up with the wet weather set to continue.
Sky News weather presenter Joanna Robinson said: “Most other places will dry up, but southwest Britain will stay wet and windy, with gusts up to 60mph.”
Thousands of homes were left without power in Wales over the weekend.
Around 1,200 homes in South Wales still have no electricity.
Earlier many homes were cut off in the West Midlands, as well as 2,000 in the South West, electricity supplier Western Power said.