Three people were feared to have drowned and another was fighting for life last night after they were swept off their paddleboards when a sudden storm turned a flooded river into a torrent.
The three, part of an organised outing, had been in the water only minutes when they were hit by a deluge of rushing water as they paddled near a weir on the swollen river in Pembrokeshire.
They were swept from their boards and seen ‘in distress’ in the River Cleddau, near the town centre of Haverfordwest.
A huge rescue operation involving four helicopters, a lifeboat, firefighters and police was launched.
According to local reports, one paddleboarder was in intensive care in hospital last night. Five more people in the expedition survived but were said to be in shock.
A witness said: ‘I heard they recovered a body and a young woman was pulled out of the river and she wasn’t looking too good.
‘They are still searching for a third person who was swept down the river.’
The paddleboarders were well equipped and in wetsuits when they entered the water yesterday morning, but locals said river conditions were treacherous because of high rainfall in recent days.
The witness said: ‘They were just below the weir when they were hit by a flash flood which came from nowhere. It was raining hard at the time and the river levels are quite high because of the bad weather we’ve had this week.
‘There are two air ambulances here along with police and coastguard helicopters. It’s a major operation, but they seem to be concentrating their effort downriver now, looking for the missing man.’
The casualties were taken to Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest. It is understood the paddleboarders were from South East Wales and were visiting the area on an adventure trip.
Dyfed-Powys Police asked pedestrians and motorists to avoid the area while the rescue operation was under way. A spokesman said: ‘A multi-agency search is taking place on the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest following reports of people in distress in the water.’
The Environment Agency warned householders in many areas to expect further dangerous floods, following almost 16in of rain that fell in the North West last week. North Wales Police closed a road in Nefyn, Gwynedd, yesterday after severe weather conditions caused a landslide.
The British Geological Survey said the area was a ‘subsidence hazard zone’.
The Environment Agency issued 12 flood warnings and 51 flood alerts across the North and South West last night.
Locals in the Lake District reported raw sewage erupting into the streets, while residents in Cumbria and Scotland were warned of 14 sites along the coast where sewage was being ejected.
Since Wednesday, 400mm of rain – nearly 16in – has fallen in Cumbria, which typically sees an average of only 160mm, or 6in, during October.
About 40 homes were flooded and evacuated in the area on Friday. Two tourists and their dog had to be rescued by Cockermouth Mountain Rescue after they became trapped in chest-high flood water the day before.
The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for rain and wind across the country from 3am today until 6am tomorrow.
Forecasters expect more localised flooding at the start of the week, but drier, sunnier weather from Wednesday.
Emergency services at the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest, Wales, today. At least three people were on their boards on a usually calm stretch of the river when they were hit by a huge deluge of flood water
Rescue teams searching for paddle boarders at the River Cleddau today. It comes amid warnings to be careful of dangerous ‘fast flowing and deep floodwaters’
Three paddle boards were recovered by rescuers and laid on the river bank close to Pembrokeshire Council’s head offices in the town centre. Locals say the river levels had risen because of high rainfall in recent days
A kite surfer was also rescued by a helicopter yesterday afternoon after strong winds launched him 30ft into the air and flung him onto land in Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset
More heavy rain is expected over today, falling on already saturated ground in some parts, following a clear-up on Friday after a deluge hit Cumbria and southern Scotland. Pictured: Motorists in Leicester this morning
A man and woman walking with an umbrella on Wimbledon Common on a wet and rainy morning today. The Environment Agency said in England, as of this morning, there are eight flood warnings in place, meaning that flooding is expected, and 51 flood alerts, meaning that flooding remains likely
The search is ongoing in Pembrokeshire after people were called to reports of ‘people in distress’ as witnesses said the paddle borders were on the river shortly before 9am.
A witness said: ‘They were just below the weir when they were hit by a flash flood which came from nowhere.
‘It was raining hard at the time and the river levels are quite high because of the bad weather we’ve had this week.
‘There are two air ambulances here along with police and coastguard helicopters. It’s a major operation but they seem to be concentrating their effort down river now looking for the missing man.’
Police asked pedestrians and motorists to avoid the area while the rescue operation was ongoing.
A spokesperson from the Welsh Ambulance Service said: ‘We were called at 9.16am this morning to reports of a water-based incident involving multiple people near Quay Street, Haverfordwest.
‘We responded with two rapid response vehicles, three emergency ambulances and two units from the Wales Air Ambulance. As of 1pm one patient had been transferred by road to Withybush Hospital for further treatment.’
Dyfed-Powys Police stated: ‘A multi-agency search is taking place of the river Cleddau in Haverfordwest following reports of people in distress in the water.
‘The Quay Street and surrounding areas have been cordoned off, and we are asking the public to keep clear of the area at this time. Ambulance, Fire and Coastguard crews, including Coastguard helicopter, are assisting with the search.’
A map from the Met Office showing this morning’s forecast. The Environment Agency said in England, as of today, there are eight flood warnings in place, meaning that flooding is expected, and 51 flood alerts, meaning that flooding remains likely
Flood defences are deployed on homes as the River Derwent breaks its banks after torrential overnight rain yesterday in Cockermouth, England. The Met Office has warned of life-threatening flooding as the Lake District is hit with torrential rain
Debris is strewn across a footbridge as the River Derwent breaks its banks after torrential overnight rain on Friday in Cockermouth, England
The River Teviot flows through Hawick after a major incident was declared overnight in Hawick, with some residents being evacuated after flooding, on October 29, 2021 in Hawick, Scotland
Park benches are marooned as the River Derwent breaks its banks after torrential overnight rain on October 29, 2021 in Cockermouth, England
The River Teviot flows through Hawick after a major incident was declared overnight in Hawick, with some residents being evacuated after flooding, on October 29, 2021 in Hawick, Scotland. Last night the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) issued 17 flood warnings along the Scottish border with England
Left: A map from The Rivers Trust shows where sewage enters local rivers. Right: A map from Surfers Against Sewage, part of its Safer Seas and Rivers Service, tracks real-time combined sewage overflows and pollution risk forecasts
Saturday’s weather warnings
The Met Office has issued a series of weather warnings for rain for parts of Britain running from Friday until next Monday
Elsewhere, a kite surfer was rescued by a helicopter on Friday afternoon strong winds launched him 30ft into the air and flung him onto land in Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
Steve Gibbard, who witnessed the kite surfing accident, described the incident as ‘surreal and shocking’.
The witness said: ‘He was being comforted and my friend fetched him a blanket and someone else collected all of his equipment 100 yards away whilst a few onlookers tried to comfort him and keep him warm.
‘When the helicopter came he was lifted onto a stretched and flown away.’
It is not known if the man’s injuries were life threatening.
A spokeswoman for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘The casualty was recovered by the coastguard and we were called to remove a dangerous structure as the kite surfer sail had become tangled on the roof of a property on Marine Parade.
‘The wind sail was removed from the roof by using small tools and an aerial roof ladder.’
More heavy rain is expected on Saturday as torrential downpours continue to batter Britain, while a yellow rain warning was issued for southwest, Yorkshire and central Scotland.
The Met Office said: ‘Another period of heavy rain is expected to affect central and southwest Scotland from early on Saturday.’
Major flooding around the town of Biggar in South Lanarkshire is pictured after the River Clyde burst its banks this week
The River Wye is pictured Friday after bursting its banks at Builth Wells in Powys, following two days of heavy rainfall in Wales
Flooding around the town of Biggar in South Lanarkshire after the River Clyde burst its banks this week
A van with its lights on is left abandoned in floodwater Friday after heavy rainfall hit Dumfries in Scotland this week
Drone footage reveals flooding around Biggar in South Lanarkshire after the River Clyde burst its banks this week
The weather service added: ’10-20mm (0.4in-0.8in) will fall quite widely across the warning area, much of this falling in only a few hours, and onto already wet or saturated ground.
’30-40mm (1.2in-1.6in) may fall across parts of Dumfries and Galloway, mainly on the hills. Rain will clear away eastwards later in the morning.’
On Sunday, a band of rainfall will arrive across the South West England and Wales shortly after midnight and then push quickly northeastwards, with all of southern England under a rain warning for the whole day. A further rain warning is also in place for all of Sunday and into the early Monday for North Wales and South West Scotland.
Rain RAVAGES Cop26: Rail firm warns ‘don’t travel north of Preston’ while flooded tracks and collapsed bridges sparks delays as far south as London Euston where hundreds battle to board trains for conference
Flooding caused major delays for world leaders heading to Cop26 on Friday – with one train firm urging passengers ‘not to travel’ across the border due to disruption after two road bridges were ‘washed away’ amid torrential rain.
Avanti West Coast – which runs services between London Euston and Glasgow, where the climate conference begins on Sunday – said Network Rail had imposed a series of speed restrictions for safety at several locations.
National Rail said disruption to services was expected to last until at least 1pm this afternoon, when services will be ‘gradually reintroduced’. It told passengers: ‘Customers are advised NOT TO TRAVEL north of Preston today.’
Just two days before Cop26 starts, Network Rail said it had been ‘working hard throughout the night to deal with flooding’ on the West Coast main line, with Avanti and TransPennine Express services facing speed restrictions.
In the Dumfries and Galloway town of Annan, two footbridges – the Cuthbertson Bridge and Diamond Jubilee Bridge – were swept away as the River Annan rose. Network Rail Scotland said the bridges destroyed were north of the railway with trains unable to pass over a viaduct, closing the Glasgow Central – Carlisle via Dumfries line.
It added that the line will remain closed until workers can inspect the Annan Viaduct. A Network Rail spokesman said: ‘This requires divers to go into the water. So, until the river flow slows, we’re unable to do this.’
Travellers making their way to the Cop26 conference from London would ordinarily use the West Coast service to reach Glasgow, with many instead forced to travel on LNER services from King’s Cross to Edinburgh.
But other trains were disrupted by the weather, including the Edinburgh to Glasgow Central via Shotts, Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street via Falkirk High and Glasgow Queen Street to Alloa/Aberdeen/Inverness services.
Despite the miserable conditions, forecasters highlighted how temperatures have been very mild for the time of year this week, with highs of 17.3C (63.1F) in Suffolk yesterday and 15C (59F) expected in London this afternoon.
On the floods, Ben Lukey, flood duty manager at the EA, said: ‘Flooding is devastating so whilst we are pleased 1,450 properties have been protected, our thoughts are with the 40 households who have suffered.
‘The public need to stay on alert this weekend and into early next week as surface water and river flooding could still bring disruption in the south west as well as part of northern England.’
This week’s downpours come after an extraordinary wet 2020 which saw rising waters wreck homes – with the sight of sandbags today presenting a haunting reminder of flood chaos which hit the UK just before the pandemic.
Last year was the sixth wettest year for the UK on record, while February 2020 was the wettest on record and October 3, 2020 was the UK’s wettest day on record with enough rain falling across the country to fill Loch Ness.
Drone footage on Friday revealed the extent of severe flooding to hit parts of Britain.
Ben Lukey, flood duty manager at the Environment Agency, warned the public to be ‘on alert’ for further possible flooding this weekend and next week.
‘Environment Agency teams have been out on the ground clearing grilles and screens where flood debris can build up and impede river flows, and stand ready to operate flood defences if needed,’ he added.
‘Working with our partners in local resilience forums, we are supporting emergency response to keep people safe where flooding does occur.
‘We are urging residents and visitors, especially holidaymakers in the Lake District and elsewhere, to stay alert and check their flood risk by signing up for free flood warnings on the Gov.uk website and via @EnvAgency on Twitter, which offer the latest updates.’
Cockermouth Mountain Rescue in Cumbria said it had to rescue two tourists and their dog from chest-high floodwater in Southwaite Mill yesterday.
In the past few days, 40 properties have been flooded in Cumbria, however, 1,450 properties have been protected across the county, in part down to some of the new flood defences installed in areas such as Cockermouth, the Environment Agency said.
Andy Brown, flood risk manager for the Environment Agency, said but for flood defences the flood damage could have been worse.
He told BBC Radio Cumbria on Friday: ‘Those defences can’t protect us 100 per cent of the time and many people sadly in Cumbria well know, whether you be in Keswick or Carlisle or a number of other places, there will come a point when those defences will be over-topped.
‘I’m very grateful today that many thousands of properties avoided being flooded because of those magnificent flood defences.’
Meanwhile, flooding caused major delays for world leaders heading to Cop26 on Friday – with Avanti West Coast earlier warning people ‘not to travel’ across the border due to disruption after two road bridges were ‘washed away’.
The severe flooding comes after the Government climbed down over legal controls against dumping raw sewage into waterways following a backlash inside and outside Parliament.
The House of Lords backed by 213 votes to 60, majority 153, a proposal to place a new legal duty on water companies to ‘take all reasonable steps’ to prevent sewage discharges.
This enabled the Bill to be sent back to the Commons, where the Government will table its own amendment.
It will put a legal duty on utility firms to ‘secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows’.
Forecasters from the Met Office say that the unsettled weather is likely to continue into the weekend
Some 370mm (14.6in) of rain was recorded at Honister Pass in Cumbria between 1am on Wednesday and 6pm yesterday
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued a series of flood warnings and alerts covering the country on Friday
The Environment Agency had dozens of alerts and warnings out (left), while Natural Resources Wales also had dozens (right)
A man looks down the street as flood defences are deployed in properties alongside the River Teviot in Hawick Friday
A cyclist carries his bicycle above floodwater on A592 near Windermere in Cumbria this week after it turned into a river
River levels were very high in Cockermouth, Cumbria, yesterday – with flooding affecting an outdoor seating area (left)
It comes after data released by the EA agency shows that water companies dumped raw sewage into England’s rivers and seas more than 400,000 times last year.
Environmental campaigners have also raised concerns that only 14 per cent of rivers in England are rated in ‘good’ ecological health and none meet chemical standards.
A Met Office yellow warning for southern Scotland and South Lanarkshire covered Strathclyde, Central Scotland, Tayside, Fife and the Lothians on Thursday. Forecasters expect more rain Friday, with more disruption possible.
A yellow warning of rain, which includes Yorkshire and Humber, was in force until 3pm Friday. Another for South-West England applies until 9am tonight while one is already in force in Wales and lasts until 3pm Friday.
Cumbria Police warned some roads may be impassable, while South Lakes police tweeted the A591 Rydal to Grasmere road was not passable ‘due to the depth of flood waters in several locations’.
The force urged people not to take unnecessary risks and only to travel if they really need to.
Residents in the Cumbrian towns of Cockermouth and Keswick – both flooded in 2015 and 2009 – started laying sandbags and putting up flood barriers outside their homes as the Rivers Kent, Cocker and Derwent burst their banks.
The Met Office tweeted yesterday evening that 370mm (14.6in) of rain had been recorded at Honister Pass in Cumbria between 1am on Wednesday and 6pm yesterday.
Delegates travelling to the Cop26 climate change summit wait on the concourse at London Euston station this morning
Police and security personnel outside the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow Friday, where the Cop26 summit will be held
The River Teviot is seen flowing in Hawick overnight after torrential rainfall hit the town in the Scottish Borders
Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team pump out floodwater this week after Cumbria was hit by heavy rain yesterday
The River Teviot is seen flowing high and fast in Hawick overnight after families were evacuated from their homes
A major incident was declared in Hawick, pictured overnight, after sustained heavy rain caused the River Teviot to swell
People are seen watching the River Teviot from their homes in Hawick in the Scottish Borders overnight
Sandbags are seen outside a business in Hawick in the Scottish Borders overnight as it is threatened by flooding
** Have you been affected by flooding today? Please send your photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org **
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