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The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"Some waters recede only for others to return"
 real 56k

Animal Hospital's Rolf Harris at his flooded home
"It's still a lovely house"
 real 56k

Friday, 15 December, 2000, 14:29 GMT
New flood danger looms
Floods in Shrewsbury
Saturated ground could mean more winter flooding
Officials in one of the areas still most at risk from flooding are urgently checking for a new problem - seepage.

The swollen River Severn at Gloucester flooded out more than 30 properties on Thursday and, although the river did not burst its banks overnight, the Environment Agency is looking for signs of water seepage which may have extended the damage.

River levels have fallen slightly upstream on the Severn overnight but there are still seven severe flood warnings in place.


The problem now is not so much the water in the sky, it's the water in the ground

EA spokesman
The EA is warning the recent heavy rain means water levels could peak above those which caused devastating floods last month.

Across the UK there are 12 severe flood warnings in place, down from 14 on Thursday after the danger receded on the Ems and Lavant in west Sussex.

There are 85 flood alerts in place compared to 100 earlier in the week.

An EA spokesman said: "Things are improving slowly, we are not seeing additional rain but it will be at least three days before we see the waters around the Severn recede in any great way," said the spokesman.

"The problem now is not so much the water in the sky, it's the water in the ground."

He said the deluges were building up the water table in the south of England which could mean more flooding over the winter in areas including west Sussex, Kent and Somerset.

Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris: "My dog is loving it"

Maidenhead resident, and star of the BBC's Animal Hospital, Rolf Harris is now coping with his sixth flood in 20 years.

It is the second time waters have lapped round his riverside home this year though sandbags have stopped it pouring inside.

Remaining cheerful, he said: "It is the highest it's ever been, it's about waist deep in the garden."

Despite the regular floods, the animal lover has no plans to move. "We're used to it, flooding...it's not a worry."

Tony Blair
Tony Blair visited Gloucester during earlier floods
Commuters to Reading faced severe delays on the roads after the closure of a major traffic route into the Berkshire town caused by flooding on the Thames.

Rail passengers faced more chaos after Thames Trains suspended services between Oxford and Didcot due to flooding - less than 24 hours after the track was re-opened.

In Gloucester, the Severn had been expected to hit a high of 4.5 metres (14.7ft) on Thursday night, well above last month's 4.41 metres (14.4ft).

Dozens of residents fled their homes in the city as districts across the county were hit by floodwater and roads throughout the region were closed.

Since the end of last week flooding in Gloucester has damaged more than 600 properties.

Among the families evacuated was a group of eight who fled from their home at Sandhurst in Gloucester with three dogs and a pet monkey.

Home birth

Some refused to leave - including mother-to-be Lindsey Heath, of Tewkesbury, who was expecting her baby on Friday and said she was determined to stay in her house for as long as possible.

"I will just have to wait to see what happens but I am determined to have a home birth," she said.

About 100 cows stranded on farmland in nearby Minsterworth had to be evacuated to safety with the help of a fire rescue boat.

In Tewkesbury the river was peaking about 10cm higher than during last month's storms.

The town was in danger of being cut off with only the A38 from Worcester still passable.

Police advised

An EA spokeswoman said: "We are advising police of the situation and they are considering the steps to take, including possible evacuation."

Around 55 properties along the upper stretches of the River Thames in Oxford have been flooded.

Two severe flood warnings remain in place on the River Wye, but improving weather conditions in Wales has eased the situation.

The continuing misery caused by floods and storms has not extended to the high street, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Retail sales in November were up 0.7% on October, and nearly 5% higher than the same period in 1999.

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See also:

14 Dec 00 | UK
Two missing in storms
14 Dec 00 | Education
Floods go on the syllabus
14 Dec 00 | UK
Storms add to flood threat
12 Dec 00 | Wales
Forecast sparks new flood fears
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