Flash-floods warning in UK

Flash flooding will continue throughout the week as more bands of wet weather sweep across Britain, the Environment Agency warned today.

Flash flooding will continue throughout the week as more bands of wet weather sweep across Britain, the Environment Agency warned today.

Thousands of families who have barricaded their homes with sandbags have been told the next 48 hours are critical as river levels rise after the latest deluge.

More than 1.2in (30mm) of rain was recorded overnight in Wales and the West Midlands.

But despite flash flooding and travel delays this morning, weather experts reassured families that fears of a repeat of last summer’s chaos were unfounded.

There were 49 flood warnings in place by mid-morning today – this compared with more than 100 in July 2007.

Another 0.8in (20mm) of rain is expected to fall in some parts of Britain this afternoon.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “It is a mixed picture. Areas are already very saturated and rivers are responding very rapidly.

“But the good news is that gales are pushing the rainfall through very quickly.

“It seems that Wales and the West Midlands is getting the worst weather at the moment but we should make it clear that it is currently nowhere near the scale of last summer, when there were more than 100 flood warnings.

“The problems will continue throughout the week. The next few days will be crucial.”

Both MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, and the Met Office said the heaviest band of wet weather was moving rapidly eastwards.

John Hutchinson, forecaster for MeteoGroup, said: “There’s been quite a bit of rain over night and into the morning.

“That’s moving its way eastwards, there’s still quite a lot of rain moving out this afternoon.

“The wettest place overnight was Milford Haven, in Pembrokeshire, Wales which saw 32mm (1.3in).”

The Met Office has severe weather warnings in place across south-western England and in Scotland for today and tomorrow.

Communities still recovering from the summer’s chaos were particularly anxious today.

In Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, the River Avon burst its banks on Friday and was this morning showing no sign of receding.

John Bishop, the landlord of the Fleet Inn, in Twyning, on the banks of the Avon, had cleared the pub’s pets corner of its guinea pigs and canaries, in anticipation of water spilling over the garden walls.

Mr Bishop, 52, said: “It is frightening that it has taken so little rain to put us in a perilous position once again. I’m on my way out to get more sandbags from the council – I think we’ll need about 40 to try and keep the water out.

“Although we’ve had a £2,500 grant from the Flood Relief Fund, I am still trying to get money from my insurer. Thankfully, at this time of year I won’t lose much trade.”

Kelly Bartlett, of the Longlevens Flood Committee in Gloucester, one of the city’s worst-affected wards, said: “People have moved their belongings upstairs. Many haven’t moved them down since Friday when this spell of bad weather began.”

Gloucestershire Police have set up ’silver command’ to liaise with councils across the county.

The disruption caused delays on the roads and rail networks this morning.

West Mercia Police warned motorists in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire that localised flooding was likely to cause problems.

In Hampshire, South West Trains said extensive flooding in the Botley area had led to the closure of Hedge End and Botley railway stations on the line between Eastleigh and Fareham.

The 9.30am rail service between Cheltenham and Swindon was also cancelled due to flooding.

On the motorways, traffic on the M5 was said to be moving slowly throughout the worst-hit areas.

Warnings have remained in place since Friday, when flash flooding brought roads and railways to a standstill.

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