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The BBC's Catherine Marston in York
"Life goes on here as usual"
 real 56k

Saturday, 4 November, 2000, 15:01 GMT
Relief for York, for now
York flooding
Dawn patrol: York is still under several feet of water
Residents in flood-drenched York and across England and Wales are being told to build up defences ahead of more storms, as a week of weather chaos continues.

People are being urged to use the respite in the weather to restore flood defences, especially in York where the swollen River Ouse reached its highest level since records began.

We are on a knife-edge at the moment

Chief Supt Gary Barnett, York Police
The river reached a peak of 17ft 8ins (5.3m) above normal at 0330 GMT on Saturday, within two inches of breaching thousands of sandbags. Some 3,000 residents were evacuated.

Forecasters say the bad weather will return on Sunday, threatening areas such as Gloucester, where emergency services are on high alert.

The chief executive of the Environment Agency, Ed Gallagher, said: "There is a lot more grief to come."

He praised the work of his staff, the emergency services and hundreds of volunteers who have worked for several days to prevent the damage getting worse.

Residents in York
Hundreds of people evacuated their homes in York
Britain's flooding crisis prompted Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to call an emergency meeting with senior government ministers on Saturday morning to discuss flood measures.

Junior agriculture minister Elliot Morley warned as he left the meeting: "It's not over yet."

"There's more rainfall to come so we can't be complacent.

"The warnings have worked well nationally. The response has been good."

A massive civil emergency operation was launched in York on Friday.

Flood defences there have been reinforced with sandbags by the Army throughout the night and into Saturday.

'Window of opportunity'

Police Chief Superintendent Gary Barnett spoke of a "window of opportunity" for the city in which the emergency services hope to improve the situation before the next heavy rain fall which is forecast for Sunday night.

He said: "We are on a knife-edge at the moment and it doesn't look like it's going to change for the next two or three days yet.

John Prescott MP
John Prescott surveys flood damage in Worcestershire
"I must stress we are not out of the woods yet. The water is still very high and the flood defences have never been put to such an exhaustive test as they are being put to now."

Thousands of homes have now been swamped across Britain and the torrent of water is on the same scale as the "Great Floods" of 1947.

By Saturday the worst flooding had moved on from Worcester and Tewkesbury and Gloucester was under threat.

There are more than 100 flood warnings throughout England and Wales, though waters are receding in most areas.

More downpours

Another low pressure weather system is expected to hit Britain on Sunday, bringing more rain and strong winds.

The saturated ground and swollen rivers will struggle to cope with more rain and further floods are considered inevitable.

River Severn
The River Severn is causing concern
South-east England in particular has been placed on high alert. It is feared there could be as much as two inches of rain over a 48-hour period.

The River Severn is still causing concern, although Shrewsbury and Worcester have escaped relatively unscathed.

A spokeswoman for Gloucester Prison said managers were keeping a close eye on river levels close by and had contingency plans for the evacuation of inmates if necessary.

And more problems have been caused by hundreds of sightseers coming into Gloucester to see the floods.

They are being advised to go home and monitor the developments on television.

The Environment Agency predicts flood levels on the Severn will peak in Gloucester in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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02 Nov 00 | UK
Animals killed in floods
03 Nov 00 | UK
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