UK weather: London flood alerts issued after Thames bursts its banks

Water spilled onto flood plains in Greenwich following the Thames Barrier's first closure this winter

Henry Austin
Friday 12 February 2016 21:45
The River Thames bursts it's banks near Kew Bridge on February 12, 2016 in London, England.
The River Thames bursts it's banks near Kew Bridge on February 12, 2016 in London, England.

Flood alerts have been issued for a vast stretch of the Thames after the river burst its banks in parts of central London, while officials warned of high tides and rising water levels from Cornwall to the North-east of England.

Following the closure of the Thames Barrier for the first time this winter on Wednesday, water spilled onto nearby flood plains in Greenwich on Friday. Levels were high near Embankment, Charing Cross and other areas in the city centre. That prompted the Environment Agency (EA) to issue five flood alerts covering south-eastern parts of the city to Putney Bridge and further west to Teddington Weir.

“With heavy rain across the South-east over the last week, flows on the Thames have increased,” the agency said. “These high flows have coincided with spring tides, when tides are usually at their highest during the tidal cycle.”

In its 34-year history the Thames Barrier has been closed 176 times, mostly in storm-surge conditions, to protect the capital from flooding from the sea. It can also be closed to reduce the risk of flooding in west London.

As of Friday night there were 14 flood warnings across the country. “There is an ongoing risk of flooding along the River Severn in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, as river levels continue to rise after heavy rainfall,” said Andy Wilkinson, the EA’s duty flood-risk manager, adding that a number of temporary barriers had also been deployed in Ironbridge and Bewdley.

“Flooding of low-lying roads is possible. People should avoid driving through flood water: just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car,” he said. “Strong winds and high tides over the weekend mean there will be large waves and spray around the coast of England, particularly in Yorkshire, the North-east and Cornwall.”

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