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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 February 2008, 12:05 GMT
Road reopened after snow rescue
Snow plough and lorry on the A66
Snow ploughs cleared paths to the stranded vehicles
The A66 in County Durham has reopened after heavy snow trapped 200 drivers and passengers who had to be rescued.

Many were forced to abandon their vehicles on the transpennine route and spend the night in pubs and hotels.

A coach party of 40 pensioners and a party of 15 children were among those taken to safety on Friday.

A Durham Police spokesman said all vehicles had now been removed and that drivers were not to blame, as the snow had been "unexpectedly heavy".

A Durham Police spokeswoman said: "Snow ploughs have been working continuously on the road and the vast majority of the 130 vehicles originally stranded have now been removed.

"The people who were taken to the reception centre at the village hall and local pub, aided by police and mountain rescue volunteers, have either been able to leave the area in their vehicles or are staying in bed and breakfast accommodation."

About 25 lorries remained on the A66 late on Friday night, but all private motorists had been evacuated, according to the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue Team.

Map of Bowes

The incident followed an earlier warning for motorists to take care as wintry weather swept across the Pennines.

Neil Sterio, from the Highways Agency, said: "At the request of police, we helped evacuate a large number of people from the scene, including 40 pensioners from a coach party.

"About 15 children, who I believe were with a school party, were also rescued."

'Quite scary'

Simon Wilson, from the Castle Hotel in Brough, was among those receiving people freed from vehicles.

He said: "We've only got 15 rooms, but everyone's in the bar at the moment.

"We don't quite know what's going to happen, we're just trying to keep everyone nice and warm."

Lorries snowbound on the A66
About 25 lorries remained on the A66 late at night

Sheila Rose, one of the rescued motorists who was taken to a hotel in Brough, told BBC News: "At the time it was quite scary, the weather just changed so quickly.

"It was just a flurry of snow and then it became quite hazardous where you couldn't see in front of you.

"The traffic just came to a standstill and my husband was driving and he said he didn't want to put the brakes on because you're going downhill a little bit and there were quite a few cars hitting each other."

Schools across the North closed early and in south Cumbria about 1,000 properties were left without electricity, after falling trees brought down overhead cables.



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