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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 November 2005, 15:27 GMT
Weather-hit motorists return home
Steve Smith's photo of Golden Cap, Dorset

Hundreds of people who were forced by blizzards and ice to spend the night in emergency shelters have returned home.

Around 1,000 motorists were stranded for hours on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, on Friday evening, when heavy snow forced traffic to grind to a halt.

Devon and Cornwall Police said everyone had left the shelters by mid-morning and were likely to have reached home.

Temperatures are higher, but icy conditions are likely to continue to make driving difficult overnight.

We put out warnings asking motorists not to travel, unfortunately a lot of people did
Supt Tim Swarbrick
Devon and Cornwall Police

On the A30 on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, drivers were stranded for several hours on Friday, after accidents blocked roads already hit by 13cm (5in) of snow.

A Royal Marine and two RAF and Navy helicopters helped take them to leisure centres and emergency shelters for the night.

This included a coach load of 40 teenagers from St Austell and about 60 children, and pensioners and new-borns.

Simon Blamey, head of leisure services at North Cornwall District Council, said all 350 people who slept at the leisure centre had set off home by 10.30am.

"All the public have gone. They have all returned to their cars and are either on their way home or have got home."

'Warnings ignored'

They were ferried to their abandoned cars in four-wheel drive vehicles.

Scene near Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire
Many motorists never made it home

Despite the terrible weather conditions, the only reported injuries from the weather involved a fire engine which left the eastbound carriageway of the A30 near Launceston as it answered an emergency call late on Friday.

One firefighter was taken to hospital by helicopter with serious, but not life threatening, injuries, two others had fractured bones. Three others have been discharged with minor injuries.

And a woman who was having a heart attack had to be airlifted to hospital from Bodmin Parkway railway station yesterday as gridlock meant that ambulances could not reach her.

Devon and Cornwall Police Superintendent Tim Swarbrick said the force was disappointed that many people had ignored the warnings not to travel.

Cornwall County Council said that all main roads were passable with care but aid it would take most of the weekend before things returned to normal.

The Highways Agency said it had gritted roads throughout Friday, but that was not always enough.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Almost all the problems are being caused by ill-prepared people abandoning vehicles
Jon Cooper, Camborne

"We can't guarantee roads can be kept open in all conditions," he said.

Parts of Wales were also badly hit, with more than 460 schools closed and about 100 schools were closed in Scotland and roads closed around Braemar and Crathie.

And motorists were stuck for several hours on the M8 in Lanarkshire but the road has since been cleared.

Northern Ireland and north-west Scotland were hit by 70mph gales, exceeding 100mph on mountains.

And two teenagers were killed in a motor accident while travelling in high winds and driving rain between Elgin and Rothes on the A941.

The BBC Weather Centre said the worst of the weather had passed for Northern Ireland, south-west England and Wales.

But heavy snow and blizzards are forecast for later tonight on high ground in eastern and western Scotland.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the chaos caused by the snow



SEE ALSO:
Retailers revelling in cold spell
25 Nov 05 |  Business
In pictures: A white Wales
25 Nov 05 |  In Pictures
Lost men criticised by rescuers
24 Nov 05 |  Scotland


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