Tewkesbury flood threat returns as heavy rain continues


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The Independent Online

Five years after flooding devastated Tewkesbury, heavy rainfall and rising river levels have put the historic Gloucestershire town on a high flood alert once again.

With much of England and Wales braced for further heavy rainfall, the Environment Agency set up an emergency incident room In Tewkesbury, with another two in the Midlands and a fourth in the Wessex area.

The agency has issued 31 flood warnings and 173 flood alerts, and warned of localised flooding across parts of southern and eastern England, the Midlands and Wales.

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: "It's not unusual to experience heavy downpours and some flooding - mainly of farmland - at this time of year, but we're continuing to closely monitor the forecast and rainfall particularly in areas along the rivers Severn, Teme and Avon, including Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

"Environment Agency teams are out on the ground continuing a close watch on river levels as well as checking defences and clearing any potential blockages to reduce the risk of flooding," she added.

Ian Lock, landlord of the Boat Inn in Asleworth just south of Tewkesbury, said the nearby River Severn was currently at a “worryingly high” level.

Speaking to the BBC he said: “If we'd had a high tide on Saturday night we would have had trouble - thankfully we didn't - just another three or four feet and we would have had problems.

"We still could flood, the worry is if other towns further up the river put their flood defences up the water will come down here and we'll suffer."

In just over 24-hours, Gloucestershire police received more than 60 reports of fallen trees and localised flooding, with officers also called to help clear a large tree that fell on the A417 near Cirencester.

Cardiff Council received reports of up to 60 fallen trees across the city, while energy company Western Power confirmed trees and debris had brought down lines, leaving 12,000 homes in south Wales, the West Midlands and south west England without power.

Gusts of up to 71mph have been reported, and there is further flooding across Somerset and Devon, with incidents in Nethercott, Bickenhall, West Hatch, Brixham, Kingskerswell, Paignton and Barnstaple.

The heavy rain is hitting many areas currently in a state of drought after two consecutive dry winters.

Despite 55mm of rain falling in southern England last week, registering 166 per cent of April’s average rainfall, Richard Benyon, the Environment Minister with responsibility for flooding and water, said there is still a significant water shortage.

He told ITV’s Daybreak programme “Welcome though this rain is to some farmers, unwelcome though it is to people who want to enjoy themselves and to those who potentially might be flooded, it does mean that we are not filling up the ground reserves that we need in order to cope with the drought...The sad truth is we actually need much more rain.”