The Severn surges inches from the top of its flood barrier

The town that held its breath: How shopkeepers and home owners can only watch as the Severn surges inches from the top of its flood barrier – with more rain on the way

  • River Severn was threatening to spill over a line of hastily-built flood barriers 
  • Historic town in Shropshire left holding its breath as the waters of the river rose 
  • It was one of dozens of towns menaced by floods in the wake of Storm Dennis 

Surging through Ironbridge at a rate of 470tons of water a second, the swollen River Severn was threatening to spill over a line of hastily-built flood barriers on Tuesday.

The historic town in Shropshire was left holding its breath as the rising waters were due to peak overnight.

It was one of dozens of towns and villages menaced by the floods more than 48 hours after Storm Dennis battered Britain with torrential rain and winds of more than 90mph.

Environment agency flood defence barriers hold back the River Severn from flooding The Wharfage in Ironbridge

The historic town in Shropshire was left holding its breath as the rising waters were due to peak overnight

In Ironbridge, around 30 homes were evacuated yesterday and 21 parked cars towed to safe ground.

Tractors brought hundreds of sandbags in during the afternoon. The river is expected to reach around 22ft (6.7metres) with the abnormally high levels running for at least six hours overnight.

Police issued a plea to several residents who had chosen to stay in their properties to change their minds, warning them that they could be marooned.

The devastation caused by the storm could already be seen in the nearby village of Jackfield, where only the roof of the Boat Inn pub was visible after the Severn burst its banks there.

Last night it emerged that the storm has so far devastated up to 1,500 properties in the UK with rescue teams continuing to pull residents from inundated homes. Thousands more properties have been evacuated.

Authorities yesterday admitted being unprepared for the scale of the crisis, amid warnings that the country is in ‘uncharted territory’.

PS: Don’t drop ’em, chaps! Pensioner Peter Morgan, marooned in his home near Monmouth, throws his keys down to mountain rescue volunteers. They used a raft to reach the house and he was then wrapped in a blanket and taken to safety

More floods are looming as already ravaged parts of Britain face further rain on ground heavily saturated by Storm Dennis and by Storm Ciara the previous week. Dave Throup, an Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, said: ‘We are not out of the woods yet.

‘There is quite a long way to go with this flood.’ Writing online, he added: ‘This is not normal flooding, we are in uncharted territory.’ Clive Wright, chief executive of Shropshire Council, said that the weather chaos was ‘an unprecedented situation [that came] with no warning’.

He said: ‘All of the modelling didn’t predict the amount of water that would fall and particularly in certain locations.’

Last night, there were also worries for Bewdley in Worcestershire, where the Severn is expected to reach its highest levels in more than 20 years overnight.

A team of 25 firemen yesterday used boats to move dozens of residents, some in wheelchairs and suffering from dementia, from a care home in Whitchurch, Shropshire.

MPs yesterday questioned why Boris Johnson has chosen to remain holed up at the Government’s Chevening grace and favour mansion in Kent while the crisis unfolds and asked why he had not called a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to handle the official response.

Daniel Kawczynskie, Tory MP for Shrewsbury, said: ‘Given the flooding crisis in our constituencies why has Commons not been recalled?’ He said that more Government funding and flood defence schemes were needed in the Shropshire town, where flood waters blocked main roads yesterday.

Labour MP for Halifax, Holly Lynch, said: ‘His refusal to call a Cobra meeting has really hampered the recovery of lots of different communities.’

DPD delivery van marooned in flood water caused by Storm Dennis in Fordingbridge, Hants

A man looks out at the flood waters approaching his business on the banks of the River Ouse in York, North Yorkshire

However, last night Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced he would trigger the Flood Recovery Framework, releasing thousands of pounds of aid for flooded homes and businesses.

It means flood-hit homes and businesses can apply for up to £5,000 to help make them more resilient against future flooding.

Households can also apply for up to £500 in financial hardship payments and 100 per cent council tax relief, while flooded businesses can apply for up to £2,500 and 100 per cent business rates relief.

The Environment Agency claims that existing defences have protected at least 20,000 properties while the Government has promised to invest £4billion in flood defences over the next five years.

Last night, six ‘danger to life’ severe flood warnings remained in place in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcester, covering the Lugg, Severn, and Wye rivers.


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