Flood-hit communities braced for more heavy rain

Flood-hit communities are braced for further heavy rain as river levels continue to threaten to breach barriers.

Hundreds of properties have been flooded and at-risk properties evacuated across England and Wales after the downpours brought to the UK by Storm Dennis.

The Environment Agency (EA) has warned that levels on the Rivers Wye and Severn will remain especially high into the weekend, after both broke records this week.

The River Severn was continuing to rise on Tuesday night, threatening homes and properties in the Midlands, with fears barriers would be overtopped.

West Mercia Police said an estimated 384 properties have been “significantly impacted by the floods” across Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire.

Residents in the Shropshire towns of Ironbridge and Bridgnorth were urged to evacuate their properties, while residents in Bewdley near Kidderminster were warned that flood barriers at Beales Corner might not be able to withstand the rising water levels.

Deputy Chief Constable Julian Moss said: “Water levels have been unprecedented in many places and the impact of such high-levels of flooding has been substantial across all the agencies, but more significantly to members of the public affected in any way.

“We do not underestimate how upsetting and disruptive it has been.”

The EA said 599 properties had been flooded across England as of Tuesday afternoon, as a result of the weekend’s storm, while around 800 homes in Wales have been directly affected by flooding, First Minister Mark Drakeford told the BBC.

More than 6km of temporary flood barriers have been erected across the country and flood defences have protected nearly 25,000 properties from the impacts of the storm, the EA said.

But record-breaking river levels and continued rainfall means further flooding is possible across much of the country, EA executive director of flood and coastal risk management John Curtin said.

“We expect further disruptive weather into tomorrow and Thursday, bringing a significant flood risk to the West Midlands, and there are flood warnings in place across much of England,” he said.

Winter weather Feb 18th 2020
A woman is lifted to safety by rescue workers in Whitchurch in Herefordshire (Steve Parsons/PA Wire)

The Met Office has issued yellow weather for persistent rain in Wales and the north-west of England for Wednesday and Thursday, and the north of England on Friday into Saturday.

EA manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire Dave Throup said the level of flooding leaves affected parts in “uncharted territory”.

Storm Dennis claimed the life of Yvonne Booth, from the Great Barr area of Birmingham, who was swept away by floodwater near Tenbury in Worcestershire on Sunday.

Six severe flood warnings remained in place on Tuesday night for the River Severn at Upton upon Severn, Ironbridge and Uckinghall, the River Wye and the River Lugg at Hampton Bishop on Tuesday afternoon.

In Wales, two severe warnings in place on the River Wye at Monmouth were downgraded by Natural Resources Wales, although the Wye bridge in the town remained closed.

Hundreds of residential and commercial properties have been flooded and several hundred people have either moved upstairs or found alternative accommodation.

Mountain rescue teams evacuated an elderly man from his home on a flooded road by breaking down his back door with a sledgehammer and taking him to safety on a raft.

Other neighbours on the A466 ventured to a nearby Lidl supermarket on canoes to pick up their food shopping.

And drinking water supplies were hit after a treatment works in Monmouthshire flooded.

Welsh Water asked people in Monmouth to reduce their usage.

Over the weekend, the River Taff in Pontypridd reached the highest level in more than 40 years and the River Usk reached the highest level since 1979.

The River Trent, which had prompted a severe flood warning for Burton-on-Trent, also peaked at record levels of just below four metres on Tuesday

There was relief in Upton upon Severn and Uckinghall in Worcestershire on Tuesday morning that flood defences had not been breached.

But Mr Throup urged people in those areas to “remain vigilant”.

He said: “There may be some short-term drops in levels but they may well rise again. We’re certainly not out of the woods yet, there is quite a long way to go with this flood.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism from the Labour Party for not visiting communities affected by flooding.

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