More homes evacuated as River Severn breaches flood defences

22 February 2022, 16:03 | Updated: 22 February 2022, 20:12

Flooding along the River Severn.
Flooding along the River Severn. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Rising floodwaters began to breach defences along the River Severn today after more residents were forced to flee their homes.

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More than 60 homes in Shropshire were evacuated over fears the River Severn would breach flood defences, with "danger to life" warnings in place.

Dramatic pictures from Shropshire show large parts of Shrewsbury town centre under water - with major incidents also declared in Bewdley, Worcestershire and Ironbridge.

Some people have been told to leave their homes over fears the river may flood, with a "danger to life" warning in place at the Wharfage in Ironbridge, where barriers are expected to breach.

Police officers manning the town say it's a matter of "not if but when" the river will break through the flood defences in the coming hours.

The highest River Severn level recorded in Bewdley was 5.56m on November 2, 2000 but at 12.30pm on Tuesday it was already at 4.96m.

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Government forecasters expect it to reach a peak of 5.44m at 8am on Wednesday.

The flooding follows three named storms hitting the UK in recent days, with strong wind, rain and even icy conditions in some parts of the north.

Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin left 1.4 million households without electricity, some for up to 72 hours while dozens of properties near the River Severn have been evacuated.

The Environment Agency has urged communities in parts of the West Midlands and the north of England to be prepared for significant flooding until Wednesday.

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Katharine Smith, the organisation's flood duty manager, said: “We are still facing a significant flooding risk, and we are urging people to remain vigilant and take extreme care. Heavy rain, affecting already wet areas, is likely to cause significant river flooding along the River Severn over the next few days."

Ms Smith said they have received reports of around 400 properties having flooded over the past few days, with York also badly affected.

“We have teams out on the ground taking preventative action, closing flood gates, deploying temporary barriers and moving pumps and other response equipment to areas of highest risk," she said.

“We advise people to stay away from swollen rivers and not to drive through flood water as just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car."

Vic Haddock uses pumps at his flooded home following high winds and wet weather in Ironbridge, Shropshire.
Vic Haddock uses pumps at his flooded home following high winds and wet weather in Ironbridge, Shropshire. Picture: Alamy

There are currently two severe flood warnings in place for the River Severn, meaning there is a danger to life, 91 flood warnings in place, meaning that flooding is expected, and 76 flood alerts, meaning that flooding is likely.

Jonnie Ashley, 37, who lives in Shrewsbury, said the flooding is "becoming the normal" and "slowly getting worse".

"While it brings the community together, we are getting fed up of it.

"Every time we flood, it's a big clean-up operation for those by the river, and as our town centre is essentially surrounded by the river, it has an effect (on) how people can go about day-to-day living."

Telford & Wrekin councillor Shaun Davies, who was on the scene in Ironbridge on Tuesday morning where flooding has hit areas without defences, has called on the central Government to provide a "permanent solution" to flood risks along the river.

Water begins to spill behind flood defences along the River Severn at Bewdley in Worcestershire.
Water begins to spill behind flood defences along the River Severn at Bewdley in Worcestershire. Picture: Alamy

He said the situation is "tense" and local authorities have evacuated around 60 properties in the area.

He said: "Some properties have no protection from flood defences and are still under water, and we have evacuated properties behind defences that could be breached while supporting those who have decided to stay put.

"We are doing all we can to support residents and are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best."