New flood alert for the weekend

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THOSE WHO work at Shrewsbury's picturesque Abbey are used to being underwater. "There are records of people rowing boats up to the high altar in 1947," said the Reverend Ian Ross.

Built on the River Severn's flood plane, the Abbey has had to face regular flooding. "I think people here are used to this sort of thing. They just grin and bear it," said one council worker fitting sandbags and wooden walkways in Frankwell, near the town's Welsh bridge.

But in Abbey Foregate, east of the town's English bridge, the presence of rowing boats and half-submerged cars was an unwelcome reality. The only way to visit the Crown Inn, opposite the Abbey, was by boat across the waist-high water.

"Just before I was flooded out, I had had the carpets cleaned to get the place spruced up for Christmas," said Graham Moss, the landlord. The carpet cleaner's car is still outside two feet under water.

"We'll be lucky to be open in another two weeks," he added. "The kitchen is completely wrecked and everything will have to come out. The water hasn't even stopped yet, so it's not worth starting to dry the place out. Things could get even worse."

The Environment Agency said a 100-mile stretch of the Severn, where five red warnings were in force yesterday, still remains critical. "If further significant rain occurs this weekend, it is likely that a third peak will occur," an agency spokesman warned.

Shrewsbury was still feeling the effects of the second peak yesterday. Kingsland Bridge was still the only way in and out of the town following the closure of the English and Welsh bridges. Some residents of Shrewsbury were angry that they had received little warning. "A policeman came round and said that the river was rising. We had to go and get our own sandbags," said Mr Moss.

Rod Coomby, owner of a nearby newsagents for 27 years, was stoically pumping six inches of water from his shop yesterday, with the help of paperboys. "I've never experienced this before. Everyone has had their papers today, but they won't get them tomorrow."

Four years ago, Shrewsbury council rejected a pounds 4m flood defence system proposed by the old National Rivers Authority on aesthetic grounds. It decided the brick and concrete walls would be an eyesore.