Rains to bring more flooding misery

Thurrock Gazette: A man cycles down a flooded road in Chertsey, Surrey A man cycles down a flooded road in Chertsey, Surrey

Further heavy rain is expected to bring more misery to areas that have already seen widespread flooding.

Eighty-six flood warnings remain in place throughout the country while there are 122 flood alerts, although none deemed severe - which would carry a danger to life.

River levels have been rising steadily in counties including Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset and across the Midlands following days of downpours, the Environment Agency (EA) said.

Rivers including the Hampshire Avon through Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset, the Stour in Dorset, the Parrett in Somerset and the Severn through the Midlands showed little signs of receding.

Communities along the River Thames throughout Surrey, Berkshire and Oxfordshire have also been warned that they are at risk of flooding.

Helen Roberts, a forecaster with the Met Office, said there will be more heavy rain next week.

"Tomorrow there's going to be a band of rain coming from the West in the afternoon," she said.

"It'll be over south west England from midday and spread slowly eastwards across the rest of the country."

But she said that although there might be some "moderate to heavy bursts", there were not significant amounts of rain expected until Wednesday.

She went on: "Monday night will see scattered showers in the West and into Tuesday morning but it will then be turning wet and windy on Wednesday and will be remaining unsettled.

"There is a lot of saturated land and high river levels so any amount of rain is not good for those areas."

Eight people have died and more than 1,700 homes and businesses have been flooded in England since the beginning of the Christmas period, with around 550 properties flooded since the new year. Some 140 properties have been flooded in Wales.

Today it appeared the atrocious weather had claimed another victim after the body of a missing photography student was found.

Harry Martin, 18, left his home in Newton Ferrers, Devon, at noon on January 2 to go out to take pictures of stormy seas.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed a body had been found in the sea by coastguards.

Hundreds of people volunteered to help with a clean-up of Aberystwyth promenade this morning.

The community effort, which took place over three-and-a-half hours this morning, was to tidy up the landmark a week after it was damaged by storms.

Councillor Ceredig Davies, who represents central Aberystwyth, said: "There were just over 200 people there.

"We used buckets and spades and wheelbarrows to put the sand back from the promenade, where it was washed in the storms.

"There were thousands of tonnes of sand there and the volume shifted by people today was hundreds of tonnes.

"It was great community spirit. It was back-breaking work but everyone felt that they had achieved something.

"They felt like they were doing their bit in putting our promenade back to how we like it."

The EA said those living along the lower reaches of the Thames in Surrey should remain prepared for further flooding this weekend as water levels continue to rise.

It said in a statement: "There is also an ongoing risk of flooding from the Rivers Parret in Somerset and the Severn in the Midlands. High groundwater levels mean we are likely to see continued flooding in areas such as the Somerset levels and moors, Dorset and Wiltshire."

But it said that water levels on the Thames between Lechlade, Gloucestershire, and Reading in Berkshire were beginning to slowly recede - while between Reading and Maidenhead they were stabilising.

However, between Windsor and Chertsey in Surrey levels are still rising, albeit very slowly.

The Thames is expected to stop rising in all parts within the next 24 hours, but it may be some days before the levels are back to normal, it said.

EA teams are continuing to be out in force clearing watercourses, checking and operating mobile defences, issuing warnings, and helping communities with flooding.

The most recent estimates suggest that more than 700 properties have been flooded since the start of the year, but more than 239,000 properties have been protected by flood defences.

Craig Woolhouse, head of flood incident management, said: "The River Thames is continuing to respond to the recent rainfall. Communities along the River Thames in Surrey should remain prepared for further flooding. River levels will remain high for the next few days and we urge people keep up to date with the latest flood warnings and take action."

"With so much standing water around, we would also remind people to stay out of flood water and not attempt to walk or drive through it."

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said he chaired another meeting of Cobra (the Government's emergency committee) today.

He said: "River levels continue to rise and remain high in some areas, particularly parts of the Thames. I have chaired another Cobra meeting today to ensure that the Environment Agency, local authorities and emergency services are well prepared to continue supporting those at risk.

"While better weather over the coming days is certainly a positive development, the risks from floodwater remain. I would urge members of the public to remain vigilant, and reassure them that the government is continuing to focus on flood protection and support for those affected."

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