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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 August 2007, 01:25 GMT 02:25 UK
New Thames barrier could be built
Thames Barrier
Experts predict the existing barrier will be used more frequently
A 20bn new Thames barrier could be built to prevent potentially disastrous flooding in London, it has emerged.

Environment Minister Phil Woolas told the Sunday Telegraph that a feasibility study into a second barrier for the city would report within weeks.

He said the probability London could flood had "doubled" from a one-in-2,000 to one-in-1,000 chance since the Woolwich barrier was built in 1983.

Experts fear that by 2030 the current barrier could be unable to cope.

Mr Woolas told the Sunday newspaper that ministers would have to decide whether to go ahead with building the new barrier "some time next year".

Extreme weather

"This is no longer an academic debate. We have seen the floods in England and the extreme weather across the world," he said.

"People accept that it is a real threat but they don't realise the imminence of it. Hopefully if there is any good that comes out of the floods it will be that recognition."

See the Thames' flood plain, home to over a million people

It is understood a second barrier would be located farther east than the Woolwich defence system.

A review of the flood defences at all major police, fire and power stations and other vital infrastructure was now under way, he added.

"The important question is whether the critical infrastructure sites have adequate defences. The protection they have is predominantly against terrorism and security assault," he said.

Mr Woolas told the Sunday Telegraph that the government had come close to ordering the mass evacuation of parts of Gloucestershire after the Walham power station, near Gloucester, nearly flooded last month.

"It was one-and-a-half inches from flooding and had it flooded it would have been the biggest peace-time evacuation in this country in history," he said.




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