Torrential rain that swept across Britain brought chaos as hundreds of homes were evacuated and stranded motorists plucked to safety from their vehicles. At least three people were killed in the severe storms that brought devastation to large parts of England. One man died after he wastrapped in a drain in Hull, while a 68-year-old man was killed while trying to cross a flooded road in Sheffield. Last night, police searching for a teenager who fell into the Sheaf river in Sheffield said they had found the body of a young man.

A nine-year-old boy had a lucky escape, however, when he was rescued after being swept away by a swollen river in Louth, Lincolnshire.

Severe flood alerts were issued on 15 rivers, mainly in the north and east of England, while meteorologists warned that more than 200 other rivers posed a potential risk. Reports indicate that this month will be the wettest June on record. A tornado swept through Wellington in Shropshire, highlighting the " amount of energy in the rainclouds", the Met Office said. The first day of the Wimbledon tennis tournament was also badly disrupted with 10 matches cancelled and others, including Tim Henman's opener, interrupted.

At Glastonbury music festival, police handed out thousands of emergency foil blankets to people whose journey home was delayed by mud and rain.

The worst hit area was Humberside where divers battled unsuccessfully to save Michael Barnett, 28, whose foot became trapped in a makeshift metal grille. Mr Barnett became stuck up to his neck in water while trying to help his grandfather clear a drain in Hessle, Hull. He lost consciousness and is believed to have died from hypothermia. Elsewhere in Hull, which received 4in of rain according to the Met Office, sewage overflowed, manholes floated away and emergency services were called to deal with hundreds of homes being flooded.

Last night, hundreds of motorists were stranded on the main route into Hull as flood water and stranded cars blocked the A63. Earlier in the day, two helicopters were scrambled from RAF Kinloss to look for a man trapped in his car by floodwaters on the A1079 near Bishop Burton, near Beverley. A woman was also rescued on the M62. In Louth, passers-by held on to a bridge to pull a youngster from the river Lud after hearing his screams for help. One of the rescuers was nearly swept away. With much of England and Wales having received twice the average monthly rainfall for June, rivers were running dangerously high. The Environment Agency issued 18 severe flood warnings ­ mostly in the North and East. Among them were the Humber, Aire, Bain, Don and the Louth Canal.

Warnings were also issued in connection with more than 200 rivers in the Midlands, East Anglia, London, the South-east and the South-west. As the Met Office issued the severe weather warnings, meteorologists blamed the heavy rain, flash floods and thunderstorms on sluggish jetstream winds and persistent low pressure.

Paul Knightley of MeteoGroup said: " Anything that gets caught by the weather does not have the jetstream to move it along and gets held up in the loop. When the jetstream doesn't push weather systems along, that causes rain and thunderstorms." Forecasters said the rest of the week would offer some respite from the deluge, although further rain was likely at the weekend and into next week.

A Met Office spokesman said: "The rest of the week should be fairly dry but the outlook is still unsettled." With much of the country suffering, the British Chamber of Commerce said that the disruption could cost up to £400m. An emergency shelter was set up in Leeds after 70 homes were flooded. In Gloucestershire, 50 children were rescued after a bus became stranded in a large pool of water in Lydney in the Forest of Dean, while in Gloucester 70 animals were rescued by fire crews after being stranded at a kennel.

In South Yorkshire, motorists abandoned vehicles as roads flooded and police reported grid-locked traffic in Sheffield, where hundreds of people were left stranded in buildings. Twenty people were airlifted to safety from one building, while three were rescued from the roof of a building next to two that had collapsed. Another 200 were stranded on the first-floor canteen of a Royal Mail distribution centre. In east Devon, a motorist was taken to hospital after a tree fell on his vehicle on the A377 near Exeter.

Homes in the north Devon town of Bideford were hit by two feet of flood water. A degree ceremony at Cambridge, where recipients included the former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix and the artist David Hockney, was also affected.


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