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Torrential rains sweep western Europe

Flooding and mudslides left at least two people dead in northern Italy after heavy rains that also hit Belgium, Britain, France and Germany, reports said, with dangerous weather likely to continue.
A mudslide in Villar Pelice near the northern Italian city of Turin swept away a house, killing an old man inside it, civil protection authorities said. A second person was found dead in a car also caught up in the mudslide.
A mother and her child who lived in the building were reported missing. Elsewhere in the area, fifty patients were evacuated from a hospital in Turin.
The RAI television channel showed pictures of nearby bridges and roads blocked.
"It is just the beginning of the disturbances which may continue tomorrow," the head of the civil protection service Guido Bertolaso said on Thursday.
In France the SNCF train operator closed lines overnight between Turin and Lyon, southeastern France, to avoid accidents after heavy rains in the region.
Road tunnels linking France and Italy were closed to trucks for several hours after parts were affected by a mudslide. Several highways were blocked or closed for safety in the districts of Savoie and Isere, local authorities said.
In Corsica two hotels were evacuated overnight due to flooding, firefighters said.
Mudslides and flooding also cut hit villages and cut secondary roads in eastern France overnight, while other routes were blocked by fallen trees, authorities said.
Further north meanwhile, streets were turned to rivers of mud in the eastern Belgian city of Liege after a violent storm, media reports said, but no casualties were reported.
Belgian television pictures showed flooded houses and cars swept along in the mud.
In southwestern Germany media reports said heavy rain and hail had caused extensive damage, while at Moenchengladbach a woman suffered a severe electric shock when she went into her flooded cellar in bare feet to cut the power.
Dozens of motorists had to abandon their cars, while in Baden-Wurtemberg lightning set fire to a farm.
A clean-up operation was under way in southwest England Friday after torrential rain caused flash flooding the previous evening.
The worst-hit area was the southern part of the county of Somerset. Cars were abandoned on water-logged roads, fire crews had to rescue a number of motorists and hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded out.
There were no reports of anyone injured, emergency services said.
Southern and central England were hit by some of the most devastating floods in years 12 months ago, but Devon and Somerset Fire Service described Thursday's weather as "a typical flash flood".

* AFP

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