Drivers stuck for 18 hours in the snow as cold snap batters the UK

2 March 2018, 03:40

Motorists in two parts of the UK have reported getting stuck for 17 or 18 hours as snow and high winds continue to bring treacherous driving conditions.

More than 100 cars and lorries were trapped for 17 hours overnight on the A303 between Ilminster in Somerset, and Mere in Wiltshire.

One motorist said a gritter "slid sideways" and got stuck in the snow itself.

Avon and Somerset Police said about 40 people travelling from London had been among those stranded through the night. They included a baby, elderly and vulnerable people, and some requiring medication.

Thomas Hamilton said he left his home in London at 6pm and was heading to a friend's farm when he got caught up, coming to a "standstill at the start of the A303 around midnight".

He was only 10 miles from his destination when he got stuck.

Wiltshire Council has described it as a "major incident", urging people not to travel in the area.

South Western Railway said it would be closing down by 8pm on Friday, and urged people not to travel.

High on the Pennines on the M62, meanwhile, the military was called in to help rescue vehicles. Police said the motorway was closed "indefinitely" between Rochdale in Lancashire and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire.

Drivers and passengers spent up to 18 hours on the carriageway, where temperatures were below zero and wind speeds reached 90mph.

Volunteers from Milnrow, Rochdale, took hot drinks, food and blankets to those left stranded, and Butterworth Hall was used as an emergency centre.

Its chair, Irene Davidson, told Sky News conditions had been "horrendous", and that staff from the Highways Agency deserved "medals".

Ms Davidson said she and her fellow volunteers fed as many people as they could, before having to turn back when conditions became "too treacherous".

Those arriving at the hall were "frozen" and "near to tears", she added, their phones not working because batteries had run out.

But not everyone has been so community-spirited.

Rochdale Council tweeted: "Heard reports someone in a grey transit-type van is trying to cash in on people stranded in traffic near the M62 motorway by selling cups of tea for £1. These are not council staff and we (and volunteers) are handing out drinks for free."

On the M20 in Kent, a number of crashes were reported after the fire service warned of "black ice" on the carriageways.

Kent Police said it had received more than 100 calls to crashes in just 30 minutes.

In Devon, a gritter overturned on the A379 near Shaldon. Devon County Council said that "fortunately", no one had been harmed.

The freezing weather has left several people dead and hundreds stranded amid closed roads and cancelled flights.

A seven-year-old girl died after a car slid off the road and hit a house in Cornwall on Thursday.

Hundreds of schools have been forced to close.

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The sub-zero cold snap and Storm Emma have combined to deadly effect.

On Thursday, a 75-year-old woman was found dead on a snow-covered street in Leeds; a 46-year-old man died in a collision on the A34, and a 60-year-old man died after being pulled from a lake in Welling.

On Tuesday, three people were killed in a car crash in Lincolnshire; one man died in a collision in Cambridgeshire and a homeless man was found dead in his tent near St Swithun's Church in Retford.

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Military forces were called in to assist with a major incident in Hampshire after a build-up of traffic left motorists stranded on the A31.

In Lincolnshire, the Royal Air Force was drafted in to help residents, with reports of some remote villages receiving up to 61cm (2ft) of snow.

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In Scotland, hundreds of motorists spent hours trapped in cars on the M80 near Glasgow.

Some remote areas of the Scottish Borders were cut off.

The Republic of Ireland has been hit by the worst snow for 65 years, with residents advised to stay indoors.