Rain eases but flood bill may hit pounds 100m: Homes evacuated as swollen river threatens to overwhelm city centre dam

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THE RAIN that has brought flooding to southern England causing damage estimated yesterday at pounds 100m, will ease during the next few days, bringing relief to thousands of people.

In Chichester, the worst hit area, residents were evacuated from their homes yesterday and emergency services struggled to reinforce a city centre dam before the swollen river Lavant rose further.

More than 300 soldiers, fire fighters, council employees, police and National River Authority workers were drafted in to lay hoses, distribute sandbags and man pumps.

After gloomy predictions on Sunday that the country faced further downpours all week, weather forecasters were more optimistic yesterday.

Today should be generally dry with a few outbreaks of rain. Tomorrow a fast-moving belt of heavy rain will affect the whole country, while Thursday and Friday will be dry and bright with showers.

A spokeswoman for the National Rivers Authority said: 'The general outlook is quite good. For the next few days we will get some respite to allow the rivers to recede. But they remain very responsive to any change in the weather.'

Last night there were still 134 flood warnings in operation, excluding Chichester. They were across a belt of southern England from Somerset to Norfolk.

Two rivers in Bedfordshire, the Hiz at Arlesey and the Ivel at Blunham, were subject to red alert warnings. Floods around them have mostly affected farmland although some isolated homes have suffered.

Flood damage in southern England could reach pounds 100m, a loss assessor predicted yesterday. Justin Balcombe, who took a helicopter flight over the flooded areas, said that hundreds of properties had been affected and there were pockets of severe flooding all along the south coast from Sussex to Dorset and farther inland.

He said flooded properties might need to be treated for sewage contamination and could suffer long-term problems with damp and rot.

Chichester flounders, page 3

Leading article, letters, page 15

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