Church history under threat as waters rise in archbishop's palace

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The Independent Online

Yorkshire is suffering some of Britain's worst flooding, with the city of York particularly hard hit.

Yorkshire is suffering some of Britain's worst flooding, with the city of York particularly hard hit.

The river Ouse has risen to more than 15ft above its normal level causing the city's third worst flooding for 100 years.

More than 150 business are at risk while the Archbishop of York's official residence, Bishopthorpe Palace, in the nearby village of Bishopthorpe was also threatened. The Rev Rob Marshall, the Archbishop's press secretary, said the cellars and basement of the palace had already filled with water.

"The building is almost completely surrounded by the floods - the only way in is the front," he said. "There is a lot of history there, such as robes, ancient papers and other artefacts, so we have to hope the water doesn't rise any further."

In York itself the Army was on stand by and was helping distribute sand bags. The city council has moved about a hundred people from their homes, including 36 people from a residential home.

Caroline Callaghan, 53, who has lived in York for 30 years, said: "This is the highest I have ever seen the water."

Further west, the city ofLeeds was flooded by the river Aire for the first time since 1946. At its peak the Environment Agency said the swollen river was carrying 150 tonnes of water per second through the city.

The storms which led to the flooding have trapped a group of 17 people, including four nuns and two birdwatchers, on Bardsey Island, off the north Wales coast. They were due to leave the island at the weekend but high winds and torrential rain prevented the boat which was meant to collect them from setting sail.

Speaking from the island yesterday, Derek Mayes, safety adviser of the Bardsey Island Trust, said while some of the trapped people were keen to leave, others were enjoying their extended break.

"It is a beautiful place to be trapped," he said. "Our electricity is powered by generators so we haven't been affected by power cuts. Our food supplies are running low but the two residents of the island have emergency supplies which we will use up if necessary."

With meteorologists forecasting further rain, the Environment Agency has issued 14 severe flood warnings - its most serious alert, indicating an imminent danger to life and property - on 12 rivers.

The agency's chairman, Sir John Harman, said: "We are already dealing with floods which, in geographical extent, are probably the most widespread since the great floods of 1947, and in some places as severe. Countless people and businesses in England and Wales have been affected, either directly by flooding or by disruption to transport and power. The misery is set to continue."

Colin Donnelly, a spokesman for the Met Office, said. "The picture for the next few days is unsettled, with further periods of rain coming. I know that's not good news for a lot of people."

Three Valleys Water, which supplies parts of South-east England and north London, said 30 pumping stations had been affected by flooding. The flooding had severely affected the quality of water from underground sources and while the supply of clean drinking water had been maintained more flooding could bring problems. David Alexander, the company's managing director, said: "Things are set to improve over the coming week, but in the next few days we face a massive reduction in the amount of clean drinking water available for our customers."

Meanwhile, one of Britain's largest insurance companies said householders in flood-risk areas could end up paying higher home insurance premiums.

Mike Biggs, CGNU's executive director of UK general insurance, said: "It seems not unreasonable to me that in certain areas rates may go up. This does mean that people who live in certain areas, on flood plains or in river valleys, are likely to have to pay some more."

A recent report by the Association of British Insurers showed between 950,000 and 1.2 million homes are in flood-risk areas.

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