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Saturday, October 31, 1998 Published at 18:19 GMT


Floods claim woman's life

A police diver searches for the woman's body

Flooding in parts of England and Wales could get worse this weekend with more heavy rain predicted over the next few days.

Daniel Boettcher: "Water levels could rise again"
Devon and Cornwall police said that a 67-year-old woman died after slipping from a wooden bridge over a flooded river in the village of Ebsford, near Okehampton.

She was named as Sheila Metcalfe, from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

The level of the flooded River Severn has dropped slightly, but four red flood warnings remain in the river between Shrewsbury and Gloucester.

[ image: Weather warning: A BBC News 24 forecaster predicts more rain]
Weather warning: A BBC News 24 forecaster predicts more rain
There are still 38 flood warnings across England and Wales.

An Environment Agency spokesman said people should brace themselves for more rainfall.

He said: "The prediction is for over an inch of rain over the next 24 hours so people should be aware that not everything is over."

The Association of British Insurers said that another weekend of flooding could take the clean-up bill above the £100m mark and householders were urged to take action to protect their property.

Countryside Minister Elliot Morley visited Bewdley in Worcesteshire, which has been hit by the worst floods for more than 30 years.

[ image: Elliot Morley: The cost could be high]
Elliot Morley: The cost could be high
He promised that the government would help bail out hard-hit local authorities.

He said: "Where you have an exceptional event like this it sometimes involves a local authority in exceptional spending.

"If local authorities do gave exceptional expenditure they can make a bid to the government and it will be dealt with sympathetically."

Elliot Morley: Local authority claims will be dealt with sympathetically
An Environment Agency spokesman said that overall in the Severn valley area flood levels were dropping, but with the threat of more rain across Wales and the Midlands the situation remained critical.

[ image: Bewdley in Worcestershire has been hit by the worst floods for 30 years]
Bewdley in Worcestershire has been hit by the worst floods for 30 years
He said: "We are looking closely at radar pictures and the situation, although improving, is still very much active.

"Levels are falling as the flood peak moves down the river but if we do get heavy rain a new peak could form again causing problems in those areas in Shropshire and Worcestershire that have been hit already this week."

Football games hit

The wet weather has also affected sporting fixtures up and down the country.

Premiership leaders Aston Villa's game at Chelsea was called off, with matches at Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Luton and Brentford also falling foul of the week's downpours.

The Welsh National rugby League has also been hit, with five Division One games postponed as well as Cardiff's Anglo-Welsh Friendly against London Irish.

Wettest October

The Met Office said the level of rainfall for the UK this month could exceed that of October 1987 when a hurricane battered Britain.

Manchester has already suffered its wettest October since records began in 1942.

A report into the Environment Agency's handling of flooding last Easter is due out next month. It will recommend certain improvements, such as better co-ordination via a national flood forecasting and warning centre.

Meanwhile, experts are repeating warnings that changes in the global climate mean Britain should expect more extreme weather.

Tim O'Rourdon: The chances of more flooding are much greater
Professor Tim O'Rourdon from the University of East Anglia's school of environmental studies says flooding will become a more regular occurence.

He said: "The climate variability is now much greater and the likelihood of more extreme flooding is going to be much greater."

  • For local flood warnings and information, the Environment Agency has set up a telephone hotline on 0645 881188.

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