Thousands of people living along the river Thames were moving furniture off the ground floor and defending their homes with sandbags. The National Rivers Authority warned that there was a real risk that the river would burst its banks along a 90-mile stretch from its source in Gloucestershire to Middlesex. The London Weather Centre predicted rainfall in excess of 30mm last night. 'The problems are going to get worse because the ground is already drenched,' a spokesman said. The rain brought major disruption to rail services yesterday, particularly in south-west England.
InterCity trains on the main Paddington line were not running over Staffords Bridge, on the outskirts of Exeter, because the river Exe was so high. Trains to and from London were being diverted via Yeovil, adding 50 minutes to the journey.
In Cornwall, water contaminated with metals was still gushing from the disused Wheal Jane tin mine into the river Carnon. In West Bay, Dorset, waves breached the natural shingle sea defence at Chesil Beach, threatening dozens of homes. But the NRA said that many towns and villages in south-west England had been saved so far from serious damage by a pounds 100m network of flood defence schemes. Meteorologists say that the autumn has been the wettest since 1984. In south-west England, it is the worst since 1940. In south and west Wales, people still clearing up after Monday's deluge were preparing for more floods after the forecast of more heavy rain. Rail services were still patchy. BR said that engineers were checking all bridges and tracks for structural damage. Some lines had been flooded by more than a foot of water.
In Taunton, Somerset, firemen tried to rescue more than 200 sheep which had been swept off a hillside after the river Tone burst its banks. Only 50 survived.
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