UK floods: weather latest

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Emergency dykes have been dug to protect Bridgwater’s 36,000 population. But families on low lying ground around Westonzoyland on the Somerset Levels are anxious that emergency plans to re-routye floodwater wil swamp them out.

Lily Elderfield, 92, said: “We hear rumours that they are preparing to divert more water on to us. I live alone and I am very, very frightened.”

An Enviornment Agency source said: “A 40 square mile area of the Somerset Levels could be flooded deliberately to save Bridgwater and Taunton.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “This is an emergency situation and some very difficult decisions have to be made.

“We have been working in Westonzoyland to assess lowest properties most at risk and what defences can be provided.”

David Cameron speaks speaks with Major General Patrick Sanders (centre) and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond (right) during the Government’s Cobra emergency meeting at 10 Downing Street. Photo: PA

11.20 In a bit of good news for the Enviornment Agency, one of their workers has become so popular because of his relentless hard work during the floods he has his own fan page on Twitter.

Dave Throup, area manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, has won praise from locals for helping them hold back the tide of rising water.

Now the Twitter profile @DaveThroupFans has been set up – racking up 618 fans in 18 hours – along with a Facebook page.

Messages tweeted from the account include: “Dave Throup, the 4th emergency service” and “Dave Throup, the hardest working public servant in the world. #Needsaholiday.”

Another said: “Superman is miffed that Dave has knocked him off the top spot. #localsuperhero #floods #Worcester #Hereford #Wye.”

Ross-on-Wye councillor Richard Mayo, tweeted:

11.10 The Met Office has issued a red weather warning – the most severe level of threat – for “exceptionally strong winds” of up to 100mph in western parts of Wales and some north-western parts of England this evening.

11.00 Telegraph reporter James Edgar is in Datchet speaking to residents who said they believed the power cut which left 1,700 homes without electricity was caused by a surge of water created by thieves fleeing a burglary last night.

Bobby Singh, 31, said shortly before the outage in the village a 4×4 vehicle was seen speeding through the floodwater creating a large wave.

He said residents believed the wake of water hit a power substation in the centre of the village, which caused the power to fail.

Mr Singh said some locals reported the 4×4 was being used as a getaway vehicle by thieves after they raided a house on the road which leads to Horton, the next village along.

“They came flying through the water at about 8pm and sent a huge wave through the village,” he said.

Residents have spoken of sandbags being removed by people who are not from Datchet, while some have been standing guard by their properties to prevent looting.

Villagers have been left angered by vehicles driving too quickly through the floodwater, creating waves which cause the water to breach defences.

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said they did not have any reports of crime in the area last night, adding: “We have not had any reports of any flood-related crime.”

A boat is photographed after becoming wedged against theBell Weir in Old Windsor. Photo: London News Pictures

10.40 David Cameron has been told that flooding could reach 1947 levels in some areas but thousands of military personnel are available at short notice if extra support is needed.

Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster told a meeting of Cobra in Downing Street this morning:

Quote Oxford to Maidenhead we think could rise over the next five days and may lead to more flooding in that area.

Below Maidenhead, the levels are holding at the current level but potentially over the weekend and going into the beginning of next week they could rise to higher than the current levels.

The current extent of flooding is similar to 2003 and in places we believe it could get to 1947 levels but, of course, there has been further work done since then, so we wouldn’t expect to see the same levels of properties affected.

Major General Patrick Sanders, who is coordinating the military response, told the meeting that around 2,000 military personnel are involved in the clean-up operation and support in Somerset was increased overnight.

Quote What we would like to do is to thicken up some of the command and control structures at gold and silver level.

He told the Prime Minister that “thousands” of extra military personnel were available in a short period of time.

Three worried-looking politicians – Eric Pickles, George Osborne and Nick Clegg – listen during the Cobra meeting. Photo: PA

10.20 Mr King’s comments come as the Highways Agency said a 10-mile section of the M2 would remain closed for the entire day on Wednesday after a 15ft-deep hole appeared in the central reservation.

The section is on the M2 in north Kent, between junction 5 near Sittingbourne and junction 6 south of Faversham.

The hole – about 16ft long and 6ft wide – led to the section being closed from early yesterday afternoon, leading to big tailbacks on routes leading to and from the Kent coast.

The Highways Agency (HA) said work was continuing to find out what caused the hole to open and that the section remained closed for safety reasons.

It said the road would remain shut until at least Thursday morning, and even then some lanes are likely to stay closed.

A 15ft sink hole appears in Kent causing a section of the M2 to close

10.10 The excess water has caused serious damage to Britain’s roads, reports the AA, with erosion of potholes and even huge sinkholes appearing.

AA president Edmund King said:

Quote The weather continues to have a damaging effect on the roads, from localised flooding to pothole erosion, and even freak sink holes appearing.

It also has a damaging effect on vehicles, with AA patrols reporting extensive pothole damage to engine failure and breakdowns caused by excessive water.

It seems that the M2 hole could be a natural sink hole caused over hundreds of years from water forging a cavity in the chalk and then the heavy rain leading to the collapse of soil above the cavity.

Alternatively, it could be an ancient man-made Dene-Hole (also known as Dane Hole). These were artificial caverns forged in the chalk hundreds of years ago and often blamed on the Danes. Either way, it appears that the heavy rain has caused this collapse so we hope that the Highways Agency can get to the bottom of this problem as soon as possible.

The diversion off the M2 is already causing considerable congestion. The M2 started operating in 1965 and we are not aware of any previous collapses, so it does seem that this is yet another casualty of the exceptionally wet weather.

10.00 Before and after photos of the A361 near East Lyng in Somerset show the devastating effect of recent heavy flooding.

Photo: G Bruce / SWNS.com

09.45 Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin says there is no “blank cheque” for flooding relief despite David Cameron saying money is “no object”.

The Transport Secretary said that the Government would “use every resource” but refused to say that new money will be made available.

His comments come just hours after David Cameron insisted that “whatever money is needed [for flood relief] will be spent”.

09.35 This Met Office live flood warning map shows the locations where flood alerts, flood warnings or severe flood warnings are in force. In total there are 16 severe flood warnigns, 122 flood warnings and 225 flood alerts.

09.25 Telegraph reporter Sam Marsden reports from Wraysbury:

Twitter A woman walks down flooded Ouseley Road in Wraysbury, Berkshire. Water levels look roughly the same as yesterday

09.10 Robin Gisby, director of operations at Network Rail, warned of “another difficult day for passengers”.

He told the Today programme that flooding at Maidenhead meant only five trains an hour could pass through rather than the normal 12.

Parts of the Southwest, Wales and the Northwest will also experience speed restrictions because of severe gales.

First Great Western is warning of major disruption and is urging passengers not to travel on its trains unless absolutely necessary.

08.55 Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin denied that the Government was “powerless” in the face of the forces of nature. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said:

Quote It isn’t powerless in that it’s got the machinery of government to try to help and alleviate the problems that individuals face.

And it is also not powerless in making sure that when we do the repairs we do them at a resilience that will last for future storms that come along.

Engineering techniques have changed a huge amount and when we rebuild walls we will build them to a different standard of engineering to what they were originally built to.

Mr McLoughlin said the flooding was not a “one-off event”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

Quote It was not many years ago that we were all talking about droughts and the problem ‘would our underground water ever fill up again?’. That was three years ago and now we are talking about water just coming up out of the ground into people’s homes.

So we have got to accept there is more extreme weather and how do we become resilient for it?

I don’t think we can just take this as a one-off event.

A firefighter carries a paramedic through floodwater in Chertsey. Photo: Getty Images

08.35 Thames Valley Police Assistant Chief Constable John Campbell, Wraysbury‘s gold commander in charge of the rescue operation, defended the authorities’ response to the flooding in Wraysbury and said there was only a “limited” amount that could have been done to protect the village. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

Quote In the first 48 hours or so a lot of effort with military and blue light services and the Environment Agency was put into preventing further flooding, and that involved a range of activities along the Thames, building flood defences, protecting infrastructure sub-stations and assisting Network Rail with issues in terms of the Maidenhead line.

In terms of Wraysbury, one of the unfortunate things about Wraysbury as a location is there are limited flood defences that can take effect around that location – unfortunately it has flooded before.

In terms of the emerging picture we saw yesterday a number of residents wanted to see more activity in the Wraysbury area and with the second wave of military support that we got … we deployed those to Wraysbury.

Certainly we have now got at least 100 soldiers and military personnel.

Clearly they [the residents] were frustrated that they didn’t think enough was being done in the first instance. Obviously we have to prioritise and focus on trying to defend certain aspects of the Thames and the flood breaches and that was what we were trying to do in the first instance.

08.30 Residents of New Haw, Surrey, have told how their village has experienced “the worst devastation in 50 years” as they were evacuated to emergency centres in the middle of the night.

One man was forced to leave his home at 3am this morning after water started coming in through the floorboards.

“We took anything that was of any worth, like computers and clothes, upstairs and then the fire brigade rescued us in a boat,”he said.

“It’s the worst devastation that I’ve known in almost 50 years.”

One 85-year-old woman living in bungalow has to be brought to Thorpe park in a fire engine.

She said she was “shocked” when she saw the water.

She added: “You can’t live like this. I can’t go back home .”

08.15 The Met’s helicopter team, MPS, has tweeted infrared pictures of the scene in flood-hit Datchet last night.

Twitter Slough Road/Queens Road #datchet underwater

Twitter #flooding in #Datchet High Street tonight

08.00 We’d like to hear from you if you’ve been affected by the weather. Here we have an open thread for you to send us your pictures or videos. Alternatively, you can send them to readers@telegraph.co.uk.

07.55 There have been further developments overnight with thousands more residents told to leave their homes.

Residents in Staines were evacuated while a primary school in Wraysbury, Berkshire, was reportedly turned in a “24/7 control centre” for residents affected by flooding.

The BBC said army personnel had been on the streets during the night to help police, and that the army and police had set up checkpoints to monitor who comes and goes in the area following fears of looting at the homes of flood victims.

Around 1,000 homes in the Thameside village of Datchet were left without power during the night after power cuts which initially affected 1,700 properties and left engineers scrambling to fix the fault.

Salisbury Cathedral viewed over flood water from the River Avon during a sunny spell between continuing stormy weather. Photo: Alamy

07.40 Unfortunately, today is likely to see the return of severe storms and rising water levels, with forecasters warning some of the strongest winds of the water could hit.

The storm could fell trees and cause transport and power disruption, with winds in the South West potentially reaching 80mph. And there is continuing disruption to rail services in the Thames Valley and West Country. Gusts of up to 100mph could be seen on parts of the Welsh coast.

Yet more rain is on the way. The Met Office forecasts 15-40mm (0.6-1.5 ins) within across many southern and western areas, with as much as 70mm (2.75 ins) by Friday in the already sodden West Country, south Wales, western Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Photo: i-images

07.30 Good morning and welcome to our third day of live coverage of the flooding crisis.

On Tuesday David Cameron said that “money is no object” as he declared the floods were a national emergency and staked his personal authority on rebuilding damaged regions and making them more resilient to extreme weather. James Kirkup, The Telegraph’s political editor reports:

The Prime Minister called for the country to “unite in a great national effort” to repair the damage from flooding that has brought misery to the south and south-west of England. He added that Britain needed to prepare for the prospect of more frequent flooding.

“Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for, it will be spent,” Mr Cameron said, adding that more Armed Forces personnel could be deployed to join 1,500 already in Somerset and the Thames Valley.

Despite a major injection of public money in which even uninsured households will be given cash for repairs, it will be a “depressingly long period of time” before many parts of England return to normal, he said.

Once the damage is finally repaired, much more will have to be done to strengthen flood defences since this winter’s extreme weather is likely to be repeated, he added.

After a two-day tour of flood-affected areas, Mr Cameron returned to Downing Street and took a political gamble on the Government’s ability to tackle the flooding and prepare Britain for similar challenges in future. “I will continue to lead the national response,” he said, announcing he was cancelling a Middle East trip next week to focus on flooding.

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