Hopes high Plate will avoid worst of rain

The North-East is expected to escape the worst of severe weather which is predicted to hit areas of Britain already badly affected by flooding.

The North-East is expected to escape the worst of severe weather which is predicted to hit areas of Britain already badly affected by flooding.

While some showers could cause some inconvenience to race-goers at Gosforth Park for the Northumberland Plate - the biggest event of the North-East Flat Racing calendar - tomorrow. and bring more mud to the Hoppings funfair on Newcastle Town Moor, other parts of Britain were bracing themselves for much more hardship.

The Met Office was yesterday forecasting "unsettled conditions".

But they had "particular concern" that a slow-moving area of low pressure will bring more persistent and heavy rain to parts of the UK over the weekend.

Rainfall amounts of 15mm to 25mm are expected quite widely across England and Wales, but there is a risk that local totals could reach 50mm, with the wettest conditions most likely later on Saturday across eastern England.

A spokesman said: "Given that the ground is saturated following recent events, there is potential for further disruption. Unsettled conditions are also forecast to continue into next week."

He advised anybody concerned about flooding to refer to the Environment Agency Floodline on 0845 9881188 or the Environment Agency website www.environment-agency.gov.uk for further information.

But the Environment Agency stressed yesterday the North-East was expected to escape the worst of the rain, with light rain predicted for tomorrow (sat) although thunderstorms on Sunday and heavier showers on Monday are forecast.

A spokeswoman said: "We do have concerns about the slow-moving area of low pressure, but it is expected to stop across South Yorkshire and the north Midlands which is where the worst of the flooding has been.

"There is likely to be showers further north but we are not expecting severe weather conditions in the North-East."

The confidence was shared at Newcastle Racecourse where a spokeswoman yesterday said some "unsettled" weather was expected on Saturday, but added: "We are not planning any course inspection, we are confident the racing will go ahead."

Last weekend parts of County Durham experienced flooding, especially in and around Chester-le-Street and Darlington.

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Flood rescue is biggest peacetime operation in UK

The rescue effort to help thousands of people caught up in the devastating floods was yesterday described as the biggest in peacetime Britain - as affected areas braced themselves for more heavy rain.

The Government has been accused of under-estimating the scale of the flood rescue effort after new figures showed as many as 3,500 people have been rescued by the fire service in the past few days.

The Prince of Wales will visit some of the flood victims in the North of England today, as the clean-up continues across the region.

Five people have already died in the flooding, which has forced hundreds of people in Yorkshire and the Midlands from their homes.

The latest was in Lincolnshire where rescue teams searching for a man who went missing in a flooded canal recovered a body. The body of a man in his 60s was recovered from floodwater at Torksey Lock, near Gainsborough.

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