Home / News / World /  London commuter towns face more flooding as storm dumps rain

London: Commuter areas west of London will remain at high risk of flooding as a result of the latest in a succession of storms that have brought heavy rain and hurricane-force winds to southern Britain, the country’s environment agency said.

Widespread flooding will affect whole communities and a significant numbers of properties, as well as causing disruption to travel, the agency said in a statement on its website late on Saturday. The Thames Barrier was closed on Saturday for a record 16th consecutive day to reduce the risk to London from tidal surges entering the mouth of the river.

Two people died and thousands of customers were left without power as a result of the system that struck southern England late 14 February and continued through Saturday morning. A woman was killed in London when part of a building collapsed onto a car, police said. A passenger on the ship Marco Polo died in the English Channel and 15 others were hurt after the vessel carrying more than 1,000 people was hit by a freak wave, operator Cruise & Maritime Voyages said on its website.

“Thankfully, it does appear that we will see less rain and wind over the next few days," UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement posted on the government’s website late on Saturday. “However, after so much rain over recent weeks, groundwater levels remain very high and in many places will continue to rise."

Restoring Power

Hundreds of homes along the Thames west of London were already flooded before the storm and areas of Somerset in southwestern England have been submerged since before Christmas. Water levels have been the highest in more than 60 years, according to the environment agency. The Thames poses a high risk of flooding for at least three more days in Windsor, Maidenhead and parts of Surrey, the agency said on Saturday.

Storms since the beginning of December have brought record rainfall to parts of England, inundating at least 5,800 homes, bringing chaos to rail travel and battering the shoreline with the biggest coastal surges in decades.

Engineers were working to restore power to about 73,600 customers in central-southern England, Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution said late on Saturday on its website.

Sixteen severe flood warnings, indicating a danger to life, were still in effect at 4 pm local time on Saturday, the environment agency said. There were a further 151 warnings for expected inundations.

French Disruption

December to February is shaping up to be the worst winter for rain in parts of England since records began in 1776. The cost to the UK insurers may exceed £3 billion ($5 billion), the Financial Times said on Saturday, citing insurance executives.

At 4 pm on Saturday, 427 flights into and out of London’s Heathrow airport had been delayed and 48 were cancelled, said FlightAware, a Houston-based tracking service.

The effects of the storm were also felt in France, where about 115,000 households in the Brittany region lost power by Saturday morning, Agence France-Presse reported, citing electricity distribution network ERDF. The main train line to the city of Brest, in western Brittany, remained closed on Saturday after being blocked by fallen trees and downed power lines, SNCF spokesman Michel Pronost said by telephone.

The storm system was moving into the North Sea and weakening, the UK’s Met Office weather service said after it had forecast winds as high as 80 miles (129 kilometres) per hour and 4 centimetres (1.6 inches) of rain in parts of southwestern England and southern Wales. Today will be a “much more pleasant day," it said.

In Hampshire, on England’s south coast, more than 30 people had to be rescued by emergency services and the army from a seafront restaurant after wind-blown gravel shattered windows and the sea flooded in, Press Association reported.

The environment agency estimated on 14 February that 1,135 homes had been flooded in the Thames Valley to the west of London since 29 January. Bloomberg

Scott Hamilton in London contributed to this story.

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