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. Weather Extremes Hit Europe With Floods And Heatwaves

Swans paddle past a submerged car on Waterside 22 July 2007 in Evesham, Worcestershire, following the floods that have crippled areas of England. Merseyside Fire and Rescue service have been working on rescuing residents from their homes since the River Avon burst it's banks. Photo courtesy AFP.

Romanian heat wave kills 15 in a week
Bucharest (AFP) Jul 23 - Fifteen people have died in the past week in Romania because of the heat, Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu said Sunday. Six of these died on Saturday when temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), he said, adding that some 15,000 people had called the emergency services because of the heat. The minister said the orange alert declared when temperatures top 40 degrees C was likely to continue until Tuesday across most of the country.

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jul 23, 2007
The Royal Air Force (RAF) said Sunday it was carrying out probably its biggest peacetime rescue operation in Britain as its helicopters helped evacuate more than 100 people from flood-hit areas. The RAF's announcement highlighted the scale of the flooding in central and western England that caused a third day of chaos for motorists and rail passengers and forced hundreds of people to spend another night in shelters.

"I would say it's probably the biggest," RAF Flight Lieutenant Rhona Metcalfe told AFP when asked to confirm reports that it was biggest peacetime rescue operation.

Since exceptionally heavy rains triggered flash floods on Friday, RAF helicopters have flown 55 sorties to rescue stranded people and bring doctors and medical supplies to people who need them, she said.

Aided by a Coast Guard helicopter, two or three RAF helicopters have plucked to safety more than 100 people since Friday, she said. Though less intense, more rain has fallen during the weekend. The worst flood-hit areas are Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, counties that lie north and west of London.

In the Gloucester area, the River Severn neared bursting point, as it swelled to its highest levels since floods 60 years ago.

In Gloucestershire, around 2,000 people spent Friday night in emergency shelters after being forced from their cars or homes.

Around 100 people spent a second night in temporary accommodation across the county, but were expected to return home later Sunday, a spokesman for Gloucestershire County Council said.

Police said, however, that the situation in parts of the county was improving and flooding was receding in certain areas.

In neighboring Worcestershire, more than 1,000 people spent Saturday night in temporary accommodation.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn told reporters in Worcester that the emergency situation was "not yet over."

"There will be further flooding downstream. It is really important that people listen out for warnings."

Barbara Young, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, said such flooding may become more common.

A spokesman for Virgin Trains said two routes were blocked Sunday due to flooding in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Banbury.

Train connections from Birmingham, Britain's second largest city, to the English West Country and the southern coast were cut, he said.

The rail company First Great Western warned that the line from Oxford to Worcester and Hereford was expected to be closed for at least a week with no alternative road transport available.

The Highways Agency said that earlier problems on one of its main roads, the A49 -- which had been closed because of the flooding -- had cleared, and the road has been reopened.

Police were also investigating the possibility that the weather may have played a role in the collision which killed 23-year-old Amith Singh Dhaliwal in Worcestershire on Saturday.

earlier related report
Floods Prompt Biggest Peacetime Rescue For Britain RAF
by Lachlan Carmichael
London (AFP) July 21 - Helicopters rescued dozens of people Saturday following heavy rains and floods in England that also forced more than 2,000 motorists, homeowners and train passengers to spend the night in shelters. Royal Air Force (RAF) and Coastguard helicopters since Friday have plucked scores of people from house rooftops, caravan parks and a bridge as well as areas of land cut off by water, RAF Flight Lieutenant Rhona Metcalfe told AFP.

Metcalfe, speaking by telphone from the rescue centre at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, said "we have rescued in excess of 100 people in the airlift," in the areas of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire in west central England.

She said more people were awaiting air rescue, but gave no numbers.

The same area, bordering Wales, also stranded motorists in their cars. Some were forced to remain in their vehicles overnight and others chose to abandon them, rescue services said.

In Gloucestershire, around 2,000 people spent Friday night in emergency shelters after being forced from their cars or homes.

Police said that people were now starting to leave the centres run by the county council as the waters receded.

Passengers were on Friday night asked to leave trains at Oxford and Banbury, with many of them forced to sleep at a school in north Oxford. Trains were unable to stop at Didcot station because of flooding.

"We've ordered 150 sleeping bags from the army and some of my staff have gone down to the local Tesco to get things like towels, toothpaste and soap," said John Kelly, Oxfordshire's county emergency planner.

"This is not the first choice of school, because the one we were going to had actually been flooded itself," he said.

At Bampton in the west of Oxfordshire, a county just west of London, more than 300 homes flooded and 1,200 left without power.

Police said Friday night they were preparing for up to 100 residents to spend the night at nearby council offices.

Some 141 domestic and international flights leaving from and arriving to London's Heathrow Airport were cancelled because of the rains on Friday, and passengers were being re-issued tickets on Saturday, an airport spokesman said.

The spokesman said flights were running normally on Saturday.

Some of the country's television stations briefly went off the air as satellite signals were disrupted, while computers jammed in offices.

Stewart Wortley, a meterologist at the Met Office, countered suggestions in front-page headlines that the storms hitting Britain resembled monsoons in India.

"Whilst they are unusual to be widespread like this, they're not totally unusual. They have happened before. We wouldn't agree with those comments," Wortley told AFP.

He said 142.6 millimetres (5.6 inches) of rain fell in Pershore, Worcestershire on Friday, far short of the 279 milimetres (10.9 inches) that fell in Martinstown, Dorset on July 18, 1955 -- the daily record in England.

In another comparison, he said, some 43 milimetres (1.6 inches) of rain fell in one hour in south London on Friday, but the record for one hour was 92 milimetres (3.6 inches) in July 1901 in Maidenhead, in Berskshire.

earlier related report
London (AFP) July 21 - Extreme weather hit Europe Saturday as the death toll from a heat wave in Romania, Austria and Bulgaria rose to 18 and hundreds faced another night of misery in flood-drenched England.

A total of 11 people have now died in Romania amid a heat wave which led to five deaths in Austria and two in Bulgaria.

In England, meanwhile, the problem was not heat but rain, causing the second serious outbreak of flooding within a month.

People in many parts of the country were being advised not to travel, while Prime Minister Gordon Brown stepped in to praise the "superb" work of the armed forces and emergency services tasked with handling the response.

Rail company First Great Western told would-be passengers to stay at home, while thousands of motorists were stranded for hours as motorways in some parts of the country came to a standstill.

Weather forecasters the Met Office had severe weather warnings in place across a thick band of south-eastern and eastern England.

And in Worcestershire, in the badly hit west central of the country, more than 1,000 people were spending Saturday night in temporary accomodation. Some 2,000 in the region slept away from home Friday night.

Military helicopters have rescued more than 100 people from house rooftops, caravan parks and a bridge as well as strips of land cut off by water since rains hit on Friday, rescue officials said.

At Stratford-upon-Avon in central England, the Royal Shakespeare Company was forced to cancel two performances after its riverside theatre was flooded.

A spokesman for forecaster MeteoGroup said that more storms were looming later Saturday and Sunday, although on a less severe scale.

Some 141 domestic and international flights leaving from and arriving to London's Heathrow Airport were cancelled because of the rains on Friday, and passengers were being re-issued tickets on Saturday, an airport spokesman said.

The spokesman said flights were running normally on Saturday.

Stewart Wortley, a meteorologist at the Met Office, refuted suggestions in front-page newspaper headlines that the storms hitting Britain resembled monsoons in India.

"Whilst they are unusual to be widespread like this, they're not totally unusual. They have happened before," Wortley told AFP.

He said 142.6 millimetres (5.6 inches) of rain fell in Pershore, Worcestershire on Friday, far short of the 279 milimetres (10.9 inches) that fell in Martinstown, Dorset on July 18, 1955 -- the daily record in England.

In another comparison, he said, some 43 milimetres (1.6 inches) of rain fell in one hour in south London on Friday, but the record for one hour was 92 milimetres (3.6 inches) in July 1901 in Maidenhead, in Berskshire.

The latest bad weather came after four people died in floods in June, and thousands of people are still homeless after flood damage in central and northern England.

In southeast Europe, several countries were wilting under baking temperatures.

In Romania, the number of people who died as a result of a week-long heat wave rose to 11, while in Austria, five deaths have been blamed on heat.

In Hungary, the temperature hit an all-time record of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) at Kiskunhalas, 130 kilometres (81 miles) south of the capital Budapest, the national weather service (OMSZ) said.

Bulglaria has endured a five-day heat wave that has sparked forest fires and left two people dead.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Tokyo (AFP) July 20, 2007
Telephone connections are always among the most vulnerable lifelines in a natural disaster, but technology has turned into a crucial asset in Japan's latest earthquake. Japan's telecom operators, like other companies, suffered damage to infrastructure in Monday's 6.8 Richter-scale earthquake in central Niigata prefecture, which killed 10 people and injured more than 1,000 others.

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