Heavy rain triggers flood alerts

London Underground services disrupted by downpours
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Two inches of overnight rainfall left parts of Britain flooded today as heavy rain countined to drench the country.

Two inches of overnight rainfall left parts of Britain flooded today as heavy rain countined to drench the country.

In the West Country and south Wales, where the weather was wettest, more than two-thirds of the average rainfall for September fell during last night alone, weathermen said.

East Anglia was forecast to see the most rain today before conditions cleared later.

In London, Tube services were disrupted due to severe flooding in St James Park, which caused long delays on the District, Circle and Picadilly lines, and at Canada Water, at which Jubilee line trains were not stopping.

In the north of England it was expected to rain for most of the afternoon, although skies should clear towards the end of the day as the weather pushed southeastwards.

The Environment Agency, which this week began publicised its alert systems during Flood Action Week, issued flood warnings near rivers in five counties in the south west and 12 regions in south Wales.

Portsmouth City Council evacuated its offices and sent all its staff home when floods cut off power to the civic offices. An emergency planning centre is being set up but flood efforts are being hampered by a total power failure at a pumping station at Eastney.

All available staff at Southern Water have been sent to help tackle the floods but a spokesman said the fuel shortages meant some workers could not use their cars.

Wastewater manager Nev James said: "Without power at Eastney pumping station the situation is extremely serious and we are doing all we can to restore its operation and help prevent flooding.

"However, there was a huge volume of rain in a very short time and at the moment it is overwhelming the pumping station."

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "The wet weather is providing an excellent opportunity to put the new flood warning systems into practice."

The old system of yellow, amber and red warnings was superseded on Tuesday by a new four stage code:

"Flood Watch" means there are potential problems

"Flood Warning" means flooding is expected

"Severe Flood Warning" means there is an imminent danger to life and property

"All Clear" means water levels are receding.

The aim of the Flood Watch code is to alert people at an early stage to be vigilant and to take preparatory steps to cope with the worsening conditions.

The warnings will be broadcast on news, weather and travel bulletins, Teletext and the Agency's Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

Flood watches were later issued for the lower River Lea in north London.

It was the first time the new Flood Watch code had been issued for the capital.

Environment Agency spokesman Ray Kemp said 6cm of rain had fallen in Havant, near Portsmouth, Hants, in just three hours today.

He said most of East Hampshire and West Sussex had been put on Flood Watch status - the lowest alert in the agency's new flood coding system.

Three Flood Warnings - the medium alert in the new system - have been issued on the Isle of Wight, and Ryde has been hit by flooding, Mr Kemp said.