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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 August, 2004, 22:27 GMT 23:27 UK
Teenager killed as storms hit UK
Flooded London street
Flash floods caught out many motorists
Severe thunderstorms that hit the UK on Tuesday have claimed at least one life.

Joseph Wharton, 14, died after being struck by lightning while camping in a back garden in Bloxwich, West Midlands, at 0750 BST, emergency services said.

Four girls, all aged 15, were hurt when they were hit by lightning in London's Hyde Park in the early evening. One is in a critical condition in hospital.

The weather caused severe traffic problems in some places, with some Heathrow flights delayed by two hours.

A shopping centre in Surrey was evacuated after rain caused roofs to collapse.

Spinal injuries

Joseph, a talented teenage footballer, was hit during a sustained thunderstorm which struck the Bloxwich area early in the morning.

He had been staying with his school friend Michael Lees at a house in nearby Cresswell Crescent.

Paramedics were called but were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at Walsall Manor Hospital.

Michael Lees' father, 39-year-old Shaun Lees, paid tribute to Joseph, saying he was a "smashing lad".

The girl hit by lightning in Hyde Park had stopped breathing by the time she was found by a paramedic, London Ambulance Service said.

Women knee-deep in water
People were caught by surprise in the rising floodwaters
She was rushed to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington where she remained in a critical condition.

The three other girls suffered spinal injuries and were taken to University College Hospital.

The girls were all lifted up into the air by the lightning strike, before being thrown back onto the ground, an eyewitness reported.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said four or five people died each year as a result of lightning strikes in the UK.

Roger Vincent said people should avoid big open spaces, not shelter under trees or other tall objects, get into a brick building or car and not carry long metal objects.

Drivers were warned of deteriorating conditions on roads in central England and reduced visibility.

A spokesman for Heathrow said the airport had experienced probably the worst disruption through weather since a heavy fall of snow in January 2003.

The backlog had been clearing but passengers should contact their airlines to check for disruption, he said.

Still dangerous

BAA Scotland, which covers its airports in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow, said there had been a handful of cancellations but significant delays on a number of flights to and from London.

People had to be evacuated from the Two Rivers Shopping Centre in Staines, Surrey, after heavy rainfall caused structural damage to several shops, causing some ceilings to collapse.

The wettest place across England was Pershore, Worcestershire, with 46mm of rainfall.

Flooding hit the Newtown area of Wales but Northern Ireland has so far escaped the storms.

The RAC has warned that driving conditions will still be extremely dangerous overnight.

It is advising motorists to test their brakes after driving through floodwater, slow down and switch on their headlights.

The storms are likely to move north overnight before dying out on Wednesday.

The Wednesday forecast for Scotland is cloudy and wet weather with widespread rain, while a mainly dry but cloudy day, with a few scattered showers, is forecast elsewhere.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matt Morris
"With the flash flooding, busy roadways have become busy waterways"



SEE ALSO:
Boy dies after lightning strike
03 Aug 04  |  West Midlands
Thunderstorms cause travel chaos
03 Aug 04  |  London



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