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Army called in to help police rescue stranded drivers as 'major incident' declared
The A38 in Hampshire is bogged down with traffic (Picture: Highways England)

The Army has been called in to help police rescue drivers stuck in standstill traffic as appalling weather batters the south west of England.

Hundreds of people are feared to be stranded on the A31 in Hampshire and the A38 in Devon, with temperatures dropping below freezing.

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Many are thought to have been on the main roads for hours in the area, where red and amber warnings for snow have been issued by the Met Office.

Hampshire Police addressed the situation on the A31 in a tweet posted at about 9.40pm.

The force wrote: The incident on the #A31 was declared a major incident at 8.30pm.

Cars in standstill traffic due to snow on the A38 in Devon, as a snow storm hits the area. 01/03/2018
Drivers get out of their cars to observe the traffic on the A38 in Devon (Picture: SWNS)

‘Police have now taken the lead for this incident and we have called on the military and other partners to assist us in helping you.’

Many people affected by the traffic took to Twitter, including actress Natasha Barnes, whose partner was stuck on the A31.

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She wrote: ‘Can someone please send help to the A31?? People are stranded and on their own and it’s continuing to snow. No helicopters or police in sight.

‘The Hampshire police are seeming to be completely ignoring the situation on the A31 – if someone doesn’t reach out to the thousands of stranded people who have been sat there for five hours there will be a panic?’

Police later added that both carriageways on the A31 are blocked, special rest centres are being set up by Hampshire County Council, and food and drink is being taken to people trapped on the road.

Drivers in the area have been told to avoid the area.

Meanwhile, Highways England tweeted that authorities are getting to work on the A38, where vehicles are also gridlocked.

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Devon Live reported that teams from Dartmoor Search and Rescue and members of the public who own 4x4s have helped emergency services to pull stranded vehicles free.

Highways England said: ‘Snow ploughs and gritting units are on scene to get everyone safely moving asap, if you’re considering travelling tonight pls consider if its essential. Stay safe.’

Earlier, Devon and Cornwall Police declared a major incident with blizzards sweeping through the area and temperatures plummeting.

Cars in standstill traffic due to snow on the A38 in Devon, as a snow storm hits the area. 01/03/2018
Devon and Cornwall Police declared the weather a ‘major incident’ (Picture: SWNS)

A seven-year-old girl became the youngest victim of Storm Emma when she was killed in a car crash caused by the weather in the town of Looe in Cornwall.

The south west of England has been hit hard by blizzards as the storm arrived from mainland Europe and collided with the Beast from the East.

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Amber weather warnings for heavy snow and high winds are in place across the region, as well as in Scotland and northern England, on Friday.

Most of the rest of Britain is covered by yellow warnings for snow, wind and ice, as temperatures are again expected to be low.

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