Householders warned that low front could bring deeper water

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The Independent Online

Thousands of householders and businesses were warned that flooding could continue through most of next week, as several towns endured fresh alerts and even deeper flood waters last night.

Thousands of householders and businesses were warned that flooding could continue through most of next week, as several towns endured fresh alerts and even deeper flood waters last night.

Despite a day of much calmer weather across most of England and Wales yesterday, thousands of residents in the centre of towns such as Shrewsbury and York faced higher water levels overnight and early this morning.

Tewkesbury became the latest victim of flooding along the Severn, which is now believed to have innundated up to 700,000 acres of farmland in the Midlands. In the afternoon, Gloucester's centre was also on severe flood alert.

The Environment Agency and the Meteorological Office said most of the flooded areas should brace themselves for heavy rain and gale force winds, which will begin moving inland from the South-west tomorrow, and last until Tuesday.

The front would move eastwards and northwards on Monday and Tuesday, affecting the Home Counties and the Midlands on Monday, and settling over the north by Tuesday. All but southern Scotland would escape, however, the agency said. "At the moment, we're quite concerned about northern England on Monday and Tuesday. The rain band might become quite slow-moving in that area. If it then rains heavily, that is not good news," a Met Office spokesman said.

John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, promised yesterday to spend this weekend studying the damage caused by the floods and looking at how much extra money should be spent on help. "We really need to involve government, local government and insurance companies in making a proper assessment," he said.

Nationwide, the pressure began to lift. The Environment Agency had cut the number of severe flood warnings from a peak of 33 on Wednesday to 10 yesterday, covering the Severn, the Lower Dee in Wales and six locations on five rivers in Yorkshire which became the worst affected county.

In Yorkshire, the rivers Ouse, Derwent, Lower Derwent, Tees, Leven and Lower Aire were listed as posing "imminent danger to life and property" by the agency. Chichester in Sussex was also under threat from the Lavant, and would be monitored closely.

The agency strongly underlined its fears about the damage being caused by the Severn, as its severe flood warning was extended yesterday from Bewdley as far south as Gloucester, close to the Bristol Channel. It revealed that the river's total volume has increased nearly seven-fold this week. At Bewdley, the flow rates have surged from 70 cubic metres a second last Sunday to 470 cubic metres a second yesterday. On Thursday, the flooding at Worcester peaked at 5.13 metres above normal levels.

Its officials said the flooding in York and Whitby was due to the failure of local drainage and sewerage systems, which were unable to cope with the deluge. Between mid-afternoon on Thursday and Friday morning, more than an inch of rain fell on the area.

With 70 flood warnings and 12 flood watches in place in the north east, 30 homes in Ripon were evacuated and 100 at Kellington and Selby after the Ure burst its banks in Ripon. As the Lower Aire rose, 50 people were evacuated from Gowdall village, near Snaith. Northallerton was also innundated as local becks overflowed.

Roads and rail services in Yorkshire were also badly hit. East-coast mainline services between York and Newcastle were suspended due to flooding, causing havoc for stranded passengers. The A1 northbound south of Scotch Corner was covered in 3ft of water.

In Skinningrove, a coastal town in Cleveland, 12 people had to be rescued by police and one woman almost swept away, later to be housed in a nearby school. For the second time this year, residents in South Church, near Bishop Auckland, were evacuated after the Gaunless overflowed.

The brief break in the weather over in last two days allowed two water companies in south east England, the Folkestone and Dover Water Company and Southern Water, to lift boil water notices on 10,000 homes in Kent and Sussex.

But roughly 2,000 householders in Kent, Sussex and Surrey spent their seventh day without power, after flooding damaged electricity cables. Although most homes were due to be reconnected yesterday, many families will remain without electricity today.

However, Folkestone and Dover warned its customers to conserve water or face possible rationing. Yorkshire Water had considered introducing rationing, but decided to reroute supplies instead.

Last night, Railtrack confirmed flooding had closed rail lines across the country. Among the worst affected was the Tiverton to Exeter St Davids line, where the trackbed was washed away. It will take up to a week to reopen. Part of a tunnel between Swindon and Gloucester had collapsed, and would take up to five days to reopen, with other lines at Barnstaple, Merthyr, and Bristol to Gloucester affected.

Along the East Coast mainline, three sections were closed for several days by flooding, with the Leeds to Shipley branch line closed by the collapse of an embankment under 4 ft of water. In the Midlands, the Welshpool to Newtown line was washed away, and was expected to take up to a week to reopen.

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