THREE houses were struck by lightning and a school and ten homes were flooded as torrential rain and stormy weather wreaked havoc across south Essex.

Firefighters were called to a terraced house in Hockley Road, Basildon at around 7.45pm last night to find the roof well a light.

The resident was not at home at the time but people living in neighbouring properties were evacuated as crews worked to put out the fire and stop it spreading.

At 8.20pm last night crews were called to a house in Richmond Drive, Rayleigh, which had also been struck by lightening, followed by a third home in Robin Hood Road, Brentwood, less than half an hour later.

Leading firefighter Danny Gatehouse from Hadleigh who attended the Basildon incident along with colleagues from Basildon, Corringham and Wickford, said: “Residents said the lightning striking the house sounded like a car crash, a really loud bang.”

The fire service was inundated with calls from around 4.30pm onwards with Billericay, Aveley, South Ockendon and Grays particularly affected in the south of the county.

Earlier in the evening firefighters were called to ten homes in Carlisle Gardens, Billericay, that had been hit by flood water.

Three floors of the Mayflower School in Stock Road, Billericay, were flooded and crews used a portable pump to clear the water.

Further up Stock Road drivers were forced to mount the pavement to avoid a deep flood in the road outside Greenacres Nursery and the roundabout near to Stock Brook Manor was described by one driver as a “an island in the middle of a pond”.

Meanwhile commuters catching the train home from London Liverpool Street on the Southend Victoria line faced delays of up to 50 minutes due to signalling problems as a result of the bad weather.

Trains from Fenchurch Street via Grays were delayed by 20 minutes, also due to signalling problems.