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Rains ease in flood-stricken Britain, but more storms are forecast

Bad weather over the weekend is blamed for two deaths and widespread damage in parts of England, Wales and Scotland.

November 23, 2009|By Janet Stobart

Reporting from London — Rain and wind that swept over Britain during the weekend eased enough Monday to allow residents forced out by flooding to return and assess the damage -- and prepare for new storms forecast for the next few days.

The waves of bad weather that drenched parts of England, Wales and Scotland caused at least two deaths and widespread damage. Residents in heavily stricken areas watched as their houses and businesses flooded, bridges collapsed into swollen rivers and rising waters cut off roads and railways.

The worst hit was the Lake District of northwest England, where a police officer directing traffic in the town of Workington was killed Friday when a bridge collapsed. A canoeist died Saturday in the southern England town of Devon when he was trapped under his craft as it swept down the river Dart.

A woman who had fallen off a bridge into the rain-swollen River Usk in Wales over the weekend was still missing Monday.

At least six bridges had collapsed in the county of Cumbria, which includes the Lake District. Police and military personnel were checking the safety of about 1,800 bridges across the county.

In Workington, local traffic crawled over the one remaining bridge across the swelling river Derwent on Monday. In nearby Cockermouth, one of the worst-hit Cumbrian towns, people who were rescued from the weekend rains by helicopter returned to rain-sodden shops and homes along the main street.

Surrounding agricultural land, covered in debris as floods drain away, likely will be poor grazing pastures next spring for the Lake District's large sheep-farming community.

The flood damage also was a setback for tourism, source of many livelihoods in the famed countryside of English poet William Wordsworth. His birthplace in Cockermouth was among the devastated houses. Owners of hotels and guest house around the hills and dales celebrated in Wordsworth's poems now face crippling repair bills.

Weather forecasts for the next few days over most of the country are bleak, with more rain and winds expected to sweep in from the Atlantic. About 300 people were still housed with relatives or emergency shelters Monday, the BBC reported, adding that damage throughout Britain was estimated at about $150 million.

Stobart is a news assistant in The Times' London bureau.

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