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The BBC's Robert Hall
"A deluge that changed the landscape"
 real 56k

Ray Kemp, Environment Agency
"For goodness sake, don't go out"
 real 28k

Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
South hit by severe floods
 Uckfield, East Sussex
Uckfield in East Sussex is among the areas worst hit
Homes across south east England have been flooded after heavy rainfall overnight, with the deluge causing chaos on many roads.

The Environment Agency is advising people in East and West Sussex and north-west Kent not to travel on Thursday, as much of the region continues to be affected by some of the worst flooding in years.

A group of 20 men, women and children trapped in a supermarket by flood waters has been rescued by a team of lifeboatmen in Uckfield, East Sussex.

Ray Kemp from the Southern Region of the Environment Agency described the situation as "dire", and said conditions are set to get worse.

Click here to see a map of the worst hit areas

Vernon Jay, a jeweller from Uckfield, had to be plucked to safety by a helicopter after he was washed down the high street by the floodwaters.

Onlookers watched in horror as Mr Jay, who was trying to rescue his stock, was caught up in the current at 0720BST.

Others trapped in the town centre - including night workers and residents of flats above shops - were evacuated from a Somerfield store by RNLI volunteers.

They were examined at a nearby rest centre, and none were injured.

Police at the scene have said that although the weather is currently stable, a further 120mm of rain is expected to fall at any time.

Floods Hotline: 0845 9881188

Mr Kemp advised people encountering flood water not to proceed as they risk getting swept away.

"If you encounter floodwater, don't travel through it. This is a very severe emergency.

"This is probably the worst rainfall we have had for many, many years in southern England.

"East Sussex and north-west Kent are just at a standstill and they are covered in water."

The police have been putting out so many road flood warning signs in Sussex that they have run out

AA Roadwatch
He suggested that people should move pets to safety and get cars onto higher ground.

A spokesman for AA Roadwatch said: "The police have been putting out so many road flood warning signs in Sussex that they have run out."

The A272 in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, was shut as were roads in Devon, while Warwickshire was also hit badly with heavy showers.

Dozens of minor roads are impassable in East Sussex, and people in Lewes have been evacuated from their homes.

Rush hour motorists were stranded in their cars and some had to sit on the roof of their vehicle as floodwater continued to rise.

Up to 20mm fell overnight across Hampshire, Sussex and Kent. Rivers left swollen from rain over the past 48 hours are said to be rising again.

Friday's race meeting at Brighton has been abandoned due to waterlogging, and races have been cancelled at Redcar, Cleveland.

Stranded houseowners near Bevenden, outside Brighton
Hundreds of houseowners are affected
In West Sussex, fire crews were called to localised flooding in East Preston on Wednesday.

Levels of all the main rivers in the area, including the Medina on the Isle of Wight, the Arun and Adur in West Sussex and the Ouse and Cuckmere in East Sussex are being checked.

Workers were evacuated from the Harvey's Brewery, in Lewes when the flooded River Ouse caused a wall to collapse.

In Kent, water was held back at the Leigh Barrier near Tunbridge Wells, preventing it flowing down the River Medway towards Tonbridge.

As well as the problems caused by heavy rain, two houses in Botolphs Road, Worthing were hit by lightning at about 1930 BST on Wednesday.

A small fire started in the roof of one house. Both lost power.

Hundreds of properties in Hampshire, West and East Sussex were affected earlier in the week after drains and rivers overflowed under the pressure of the downpour.

The Isle of Wight suffered badly on Monday as 41mm of rain fell by midnight, more than half the island's total October average rainfall.

Worst hit was the town of Wroxall, where 56.6mm of rain fell, the highest reading in the south.

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