Tuesday, July 24, 2007

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See map of severe flood warnings
In Gloucester, shoppers formed queues at supermarkets to buy bottled water, while others voiced frustration they found bowsers empty.

Resident Peter Bileman said he tried 11 bowsers before finding one with any water in it.

"One after the other they were just all empty," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

There are fears residents in northern parts of nearby Stroud could also lose their water supplies because a crucial reservoir is running dry.

Gloucestershire Police Chief Constable Tim Brain said normal supplies might not be restored for up to 14 days but advised people to remain calm.

"It is important that people continue to conserve their own domestic supplies and do not panic in respect of getting water from the bowsers, or from the bottle treatment centres or from commercial outlets," he said.

"If people act calmly and with patience and forbearance, there is sufficient water for everybody."

Power restored

As many as 48,000 homes in Gloucestershire have had electricity supplies restored, after the flooded Castlemeads electricity substation was repaired.

And Mr Brain praised the "super-human" effort which prevented flood water breaching the walls of another of Gloucester's substations, Walham, which serves 250,000 people.

The fire service and military are still at the Walham site, pumping water into a nearby canal.

Emergency services are also trying to gain access to Tewkesbury's Mythe Water Treatment Works to return water supplies to 350,000 people in Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Cheltenham.

Pumping equipment is being diverted to the water station from the two electricity substations.

Up to 10,000 homes have either been flooded or are at risk of flooding in Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Lincolnshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire, according to the government.

Parts of Worcestershire remain under water and the Army has been deployed to help emergency services provide supplies to people in Upton-upon-Severn.

More flood fears

In Shropshire, the UK National Ballooning Championships due to take place next week have been cancelled for the first time in their 32-year history because of the bad weather.

Water levels in the Thames peaked at Abingdon in Oxfordshire overnight and at Oxford itself early on Tuesday, with residents escaping flooding.

But there are fears several hundred homes could be at risk further along the Thames in Berkshire, which has already been badly affected, and where water levels are not expected to peak until Wednesday.

Tim Abbott, spokesman for the Environment Agency, said: "We are now expecting the Thames to peak in Pangbourne, Purley and the Reading area in the early hours of tomorrow. There could be flooding of some properties.

"Levels in Reading, however, are not expected to be anything like what we have had in Oxfordshire."

The Environment Agency has six severe flood warnings in place - three on the Severn, two on the Thames, and one on the Ock in Oxfordshire.

The water levels of both the Severn and Thames have exceeded in some areas those of devastating floods in 1947.

The Red Cross has launched an appeal to raise money to help the thousands of people affected by the crisis.

The Association of British Insurers has said the total bill for the June and July floods could reach at least £2bn.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6913752.stm

From the AP Wire in London:

Europe battles weather extremes
33 minutes ago
LONDON (AFP) - Europe battled weather extremes late Monday as heavy rain sparked the worst flooding in England in 60 years, while the south and east of the continent was roasting in a heatwave that claimed several lives.

Large swathes of central and western England were submerged as rivers swelled and burst their banks during four days of heavy and persistent rain, leaving thousands without clean water or electricity and facing the prospect of more rain.

Britain's COBRA government emergency planning committee met Monday evening amid concerns that an electricity sub-station in Gloucester would be flooded, leaving half a million homes without electricity.

Fortunately for residents of the area, the Environment Agency said that the River Severn had reached a peak there, just two inches (5 centimetres) below the main wall protecting the city centre and the power station.

The Royal Air Force evacuated around 150 people in its biggest ever peacetime rescue, while over 100 Royal Navy sailors were sent to bolster flood defences around the electricity sub-station which serves 500,000 homes.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier linked the floods to climate change and pledged 200 million pounds (298 million euros, 411 million dollars) extra funding, plus a review to address future issues.

His comments came as a study released in the British science journal Nature yielded the first confirmation that global warming is already affecting world rainfall patterns.

Changes in climate were bringing more precipitation to northern Europe, Canada and northern Russia but less to swathes of sub-Saharan Africa, southern India and Southeast Asia, according to scientists with Environment Canada.

As Britain grappled with floods, soaring temperatures continued to wreak havoc across other parts of Europe.

The death toll from a week-long heatwave in Romania rose to 18, the health minister said, and a red alert was called for several regions Tuesday where temperatures were set to reach 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) for the second day in a row.

Bulgaria meanwhile experienced its hottest temperatures since records began Monday with the thermometer shooting above 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in parts of the country, the meteorological institute said.

One person has died because of the soaring temperatures, which are expected to keep climbing over the next two days. The heat has also contributed to 1,900 forest fires around the country.

In the north, the mayor of Kozloduy declared a state of emergency because of the extreme drought, which has destroyed 90 percent of the corn and sunflower harvest. Water rationing has been imposed in nine towns around Veliko Tarnovo.

Forest fires have also been breaking out across southern Europe, and in Greece two pilots were killed Monday when their Canadair water-bomber crashed while fighting a fire on the island of Evia.

The casualties were the fifth suffered in a month that has seen fresh blazes start almost every day, many suspected to be arson.

Over 300 fires have broken out around Greece since the weekend, fire officials said, aided by a combination of high temperatures and strong winds.

Greece earlier this month experienced what authorities described as its longest heat wave in over 100 years, during which 15 people died, and the current hot spell is set to continue until Thursday.

Another water-bomber plane crashed in central Italy Monday, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other.

More than 8,000 firefighters are mobilised against fires across the country, and according to ANSA news agency, several residential areas have been evacuated in central Urbino and Sardinia because of blazes.

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