'There's been nothing like this since 1938'

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The Independent Online

The people of Tewkesbury found themselves all but cut-off last night, three days after floods first hit their town.

Emergency workers used lifeboats to weave through the streets of the Gloucestershire town, many of which were still filled with water up to six feet deep yesterday. At least 100 homes remained severely flooded as the water level rose at a rate of 10cm an hour yesterday morning.

While some of the town's 76,000 plus residents were able to return to their homes to survey the damage from floods, others were still at a makeshift evacuation centre set up on the outskirts of the town.

Debbie Goddard, 34, a nursery assistant, became trapped at a supermarket with her husband Justin, 31, and three children when floods hit on Friday. "We stopped off for petrol and got stuck at the supermarket," she said. "We had to spend the night there. It's something you'd expect in a Third-World country."

Dorothy Organ, 88, had been rescued along with 26 other residents from her sheltered accommodation, which was flooded by two feet of water. "I've been living here since 1938 and there has never been anything like it," she said. "It rose so fast I was terrified."

Among those who were reported to be still trapped was the head of Tewkesbury Abbey, the Reverend Paul Williams.

According to his assistant curate, the Rev Steve Short, he was unable to leave the Abbey and was using sandbags to try to limit the damage to the historic building. Rev Short was at the evacuation centre to provide counselling to those forced from their homes. He said: "It has been really tough, but people's spirits have been amazing."

Last night, there were concerns in some quarters that the worst of the flooding was still to come. Fears turned to water shortages and many of those who had been able to return to their homes spent the day stockpiling water and supplies.

Bob Hill, 59, made the journey to Cheltenham to buy water with his wife, Anne. "Everyone else seemed to have the same plan, people were very panicky," he said. "A man in front of us had a trolley solely filled with water. If you look around the town, it's just pandemonium, the flood water has essentially cut us off."