Weather causes chaos across region

TWO schoolgirls were taken to hospital last night after they were struck by lightning as fierce thunderstorms swept across Suffolk.The 13-year-old and 15-year-old students were struck by a bolt of lightning at Ipswich High School in Woolverstone, near Ipswich, as they walked beneath an umbrella to their school bus.

By Danielle Nuttall

TWO schoolgirls were taken to hospital last night after they were struck by lightning as fierce thunderstorms swept across Suffolk.

The 13-year-old and 15-year-old students were struck by a bolt of lightning at Ipswich High School in Woolverstone, near Ipswich, as they walked beneath an umbrella to their school bus.

Paramedics said the girls had suffered serious burns in the incident and the force of the strike had “blown apart” their shoes.


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But both girls, who remained conscious throughout, suffered non life-threatening injuries.

A mother and daughter were also struck by lightning at Thetford, and their dog was killed in the incident.

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Seven properties were also hit by lightning and emergency services were inundated with calls as flash floods and hailstones battered the county.

Police were forced to close part of the A12 at Little Glemham, near Woodbridge, and Campsea Ashe, due to severe flooding.

Two fire engines were called to the area to pump water from the road and clear drains.

There were reports of flooding in many other areas of the county including Copdock, Wickham Market and Felixstowe.

A spokesman for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said 200 calls were made to its control room during the storms.

Firefighters attended 39 incidents across the county including seven properties that had been struck by lightning, causing roof fires.

Four of the properties were in the Ipswich area, two in Leiston and one in Felixstowe, while a house in Dovercourt also caught alight after it was struck by lightning.

Fire crews were called to the property in Devon Way at 4.20pm and spent 20 minutes putting out the flames which had taken hold in a loft.

Suffolk police was kept busy throughout the freak storms. At 1.20pm yesterday, officers attended Darsham railway crossing, near Southwold, after it was struck by lightning.

The incident caused the lights at the crossing to stick on red, resulting in lengthy delays for motorists.

A spokeswoman for the force said: “It did cause considerable tailbacks in the area a mile or so long.

“We attended and called Network Rail. We left it in their hands to deal with.”

The force also attended the A12 at Little Glemham due to the flooding and was forced to close part of the road. “We have had numerous reports of flooding, mostly in the eastern area,” the spokeswoman said.

Up to 2,000 homes in Suffolk and 1,333 in the Walton area of Essex lost power as a result of the storms.

A spokesman for EDF Energy said engineers were working as quickly as possible to restore power in Suffolk and apologised for any inconvenience caused. The power was restored in Walton by 6.47pm.

Lightning also caused problems on the trains with at least two services delayed through signalling faults.

A spokeswoman for rail operator One said: “There was a problem with the 3.26pm service from Ipswich to Felixstowe. It had to return to Platform One, due we think to lightning problems.

“There was a brief problem with signalling and track circuits in the Ipswich area. It was resolved quite quickly.

“There were some signalling problems on the east Suffolk line. The 1.38pm service from Liverpool Street to Lowestoft ran 40 minutes late and the 2.58pm Lowestoft to Liverpool Street ran half an hour late. The signalling problems in the area are thought to be weather-related.”

The East of England Ambulance Service said it attended Ipswich High School shortly after 4pm yesterday after two schoolgirls were struck by lightning.

“They were both struck simultaneously, presumably by the same bolt of lightning,” said the spokesman.

“They both had entry and exit wounds on their arms and feet.”

Both were in a stable condition in hospital last night.

Paramedic team leader Paul Leech added: “The injuries appeared to be superficial but the girls were in some pain and we gave them pain relief and put them on to a spinal board as a precaution.

“They are being assessed at Ipswich Hospital and hopefully there is no internal or lasting damage.”

The mother and daughter hit by lightning in Thetford were taken to the West Suffolk Hospital for treatment. Their collie was killed instantly.

“It's quite unusual for people to be struck by lightning so to get four in one day is a freak occurrence,” said Mr Leech.

The storms saw huge hailstones battering the region and more than half an inch of rain fell in just 30 minutes.

Although the skies will temporarily brighten, weather experts are predicting more heavy downpours for the rest of the week and into the weekend.

A spokesman for WeatherQuest said: “We have still got an area of low pressure nearby which is the same situation that brought all the rain through June.

“When you have low pressure and get sunshine in the morning, it heats up the ground and you see thunderstorms developing.

“We will have more showers today but not quite as heavy as yesterday. It will be dry tomorrow but there will be rain overnight.

“There will be a few showers on Friday but mostly bright and breezy. Going into the weekend, it will be dry to start on Saturday but will rain by the end of the day.

“It's continuing to be unsettled into the weekend and into next week as well. There could be the odd rumble of thunder today but nowhere near what it was yesterday.”

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