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Sunday, 15 October, 2000, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Storm warning for flood-hit areas
People take to canoes to negotiate flood water
Homeowners have been warned of risks as they return to their properties
Householders and shop owners in flood-hit regions of southern England are being warned that storms and more heavy rain could be on their way.

Weather forecasters predict an inch of rain is set to fall in the early hours of Monday in East Sussex and Kent.

Although river levels in the South East were beginning to return to normal, the Environment Agency has warned that new rain could bring renewed flooding as river catchments remain full.

Environment Agency spokesman Jo Warburton said: "Our flood defence experts say it is difficult to say what effect it will have. It depends where it falls and its intensity.

River catchments may have receded enough to take the extra pressure but we are urging people to remain vigilant.

Jo Warburton
Environment Agency

"The feeling is that the river catchments may have receded enough to take the extra pressure but we are urging people to remain vigilant.

She said the long term forecast was also bleak with a storm showing on the radar which might hit the South on Friday.

"The message is that things are improving but we're not out of the woods yet," Ms Warburton said. "Our staff are still working 24 hours."

The Environment Agency has downgraded flood alerts on three rivers in Kent, giving one the all clear.

The River Medway is now covered by the Agency's first-stage Flood Watch.

A Flood Warning applies to the River Rother in Sussex, which has its catchment in Kent, while the River Tiese has been given the all clear.

Sewage threat

Clean-up operations were under way in Lewes, East Sussex, where the Ouse burst its banks and tore through homes and businesses.

Many homes in Kent remain under feet of water, but the Maidstone area escaped the predicted high tide floods which threatened to spread the chaos beyond the town centre.

As homeowners return to their properties they are being urged to be extra vigilant when returning to their properties and to check structural damage.

"Gas and electricity companies are warning that supplies may be damaged and are asking customers to check before switching on appliances," said a Kent Police spokesman.

Uckfield shopkeeper clearing up
The damage has been estimated at hundreds of millions of pounds
They are also being warned to be aware of the threat posed by sewage.

The Environment Agency says sewerage systems might not be working properly because of the flooding.

They are also warning people to be aware of the risk posed by damaged gas and electricity supplies.

The Agency's pollution experts were treating spillages from oil tanks and contamination from sewers as a matter of priority.

But their efforts were being hampered by the failure of the main Lewes to Newhaven pumping station which was damaged by the flooding.

An Agency spokesman said: "Sewer systems have become surcharged by floodwaters and contamination remains an issue."

Meanwhile Sussex Police are warning homeowners to watch out for bogus builders looking to cash in on the devastation caused by the flooding.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "Residents and shopkeepers can return in the Cliffe area of Lewes but we are asking people to be on the look out for bogus cowboy builders scouting for work."

Floods Hotline: 0845 9881188

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