UK weather: Hundreds told evacuate homes and railway lines blocked as flooding declared ‘major incident’

Homes and businesses evacuated in Scottish Borders town of Hawick as rising rivers threaten ‘significant damage’

Eleanor Sly
Friday 29 October 2021 01:27
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Cars stranded in Glasgow flooding days before key Cop26 summit

Heavy rain has caused flooding across part of northwest England and Scotland, blocking railway lines and roads and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

A “major incident” was declared in Hawick, in the Scottish Borders, following sustained torrential rain on Thursday which swelled two rivers.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency said water levels on the Tweed and Teviot were “worsening rapidly” and threatened “significant damage” to up to 500 properties.

Police Scotland Chief Inspector Vinnie Fisher said: “We have been monitoring the situation with the weather in the Borders closely as the day has progressed and we have now made the decision, alongside our partners, to declare a major incident and have begun evacuating various residents around the River Teviot from their properties.

“We are working with our colleagues at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Borders Council to safely move all of those affected and ensure they are appropriately accommodated for the time being."

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has sent four fire engines and a water rescue unit to the town and is assisting with evacuating at-risk properties at risk of flooding.

Schools and health centre have been closed with a rest centre set up for those evacuated.

Weather warnings for heavy rain are in force across southern Scotland and northern England, including an amber alert for Cumbria which warns of “danger to life from fast flowing or deep floodwater”.

Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, and the Scottish Borders were deluged by rain on Wednesday and Thursday, with the downpours leaving roads and railway lines impassable in places.

Northern Rail has introduced replacement buses on parts of the route between Barrow-in-Furness and Carlisle due to severe weather flooding the track, while passengers were warned not to travel north of Preston on the Avanti West Coast line.

A cross-border rail was closed after two bridges were "washed away" amid torrential rain.

Network Rail Scotland said the bridges spanned the River Annan, north of the railway with trains unable to pass over a viaduct, closing the Dumfries to Carlisle line.

Trains into Glasgow were also affected as the city was hit by flooding just days before it hosts the Cop26 climate conference.

ScotRail services were running with delays of up to 50 minutes on Thursday.

England’s Environment Agency also advised against travel, issuing a number of flood warnings and urging that people “don’t risk driving through floodwater”.

It wrote on Twitter: “It’s deeper than it looks, and just 30cm of water can float your car.”

In Glasgow, videos posted on social media showed cars stranded in water which swamped city streets.

The Environment Agency warned people in Cumbria to remain vigilant due to the continued risk of significant flooding over the weekend. It said 40 properties have already been flooded.

Ben Lukey, the agency’s flood duty manager, said: “Our thoughts are with local residents in Cumbria, who have sadly experienced the effects of the heavy and persistent [rain] we have seen.”

In England, 11 flood warnings – meaning flooding is expected – were in place across parts of the Lake District National Park. Ferries on Windermere were suspended on Thursday and were likely to remain out of service on Friday after the operators said heavy rain had pushed up lake levels “to a extent whereby we cannot land safely”.

A total of 16 flood alerts – meaning flooding is possible – have also been issued in the Lake District and in parts of the Yorkshire Dales.

In Scotland, 20 flood warnings have been issued including in areas near Edinburgh and Glasgow.

In north Wales, flood alerts have been issued for Anglesey and areas of Caernarfonshire.

The Met Office has put out two amber weather warnings out for heavy rain in Cumbria and southwest Scotland.

This means there is a very high chance of flooding, power cuts, damage to buildings, difficult driving conditions and as well as the threat of “danger to life from fast-flowing or deep floodwater”.

Andy Page, the Met Office’s chief meteorologist, explained: “Strong southwesterly winds, a ‘conveyor belt’ of warm air and a slow moving weather front, have resulted in very large amounts of rainfall in some parts of the UK during the last 36 hours.”

He went on to point out that Honister Pass in Cumbria recorded 361.6mm of rainfall in just under 36 hours. This follows a series of extremely heavy downpours in the area over the past 16 years, in 2005, 2009, 2015 and 2020.

“The rainfall continues to present a threat of flooding and transport disruption, with difficult driving conditions and possible road closures.”

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