Somerset

Major incident declared by Avon and Somerset police

Ambulance stuck in snow
Image caption One ambulance got stuck in snow south of Bristol

Police have declared a major incident across Avon and Somerset after heavy snowfall caused chaos across the region.

Emergency services were dealing with several incidents, including about 100 vehicles becoming stuck in snow on the A303 at Ilminster.

Earlier the Met Office issued a red warning - the highest level - for snow, meaning there is a risk to life.

Police advised stranded drivers to stay in their vehicles and call for help.

'Don't abandon cars'

Ch Supt Ian Wylie, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "We have well-rehearsed plans to deal with severe weather events and will do everything we can to keep people safe.

"We've experienced extreme weather conditions over the past few hours and there are continuing red and amber Met Office weather warnings which will pose further challenges ahead."

Mr Wylie said: "If you are stranded, please stay in your vehicle, call for assistance and wait for help to arrive. Don't abandon your vehicle as it can hamper the efforts of emergency services."

Police were being assisted by Avon and Somerset Search and Rescue, Exmoor Search and Rescue, Burnham Area Rescue Boat and Wessex 4x4 Response, as well as HM Coastguard.

Earlier, hospital bosses at Taunton's Musgrove Park appealed to extra staff to come in to work to help.

They are now asking the public to only contact them if necessary.

They should only contact 999 in a life-threatening emergency.

No home visits

NHS Somerset said "some essential staff from hospital, community health services and out-of-hours GPs have been unable to report to their place of work".

This meant some patients living in the "most rural" parts of Somerset did not get expected home visits, a statement added.

Many roads across Somerset have become impassable because of snowfall and ice with Highways England issuing a warning for people not to drive.

Further snowfall and - potentially - freezing rain is expected during the night.

The NHS is advising people who are not suffering a life-threatening condition not attempt to travel to accident and emergency departments.

Instead, they should call 111 for medical advice or wait until the morning to speak to their GP.

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