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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 July 2007, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Thousands affected by heavy rain
Winchcombe: Image by Clare Shred
Drains are overflowing causing possible health hazards

More than 2,000 people spent the night in emergency centres and hundreds more were left stranded by heavy rain and floods in Gloucestershire.

Thousands of vehicles were stranded overnight on the M5 in the county.

The fire and rescue service said it was working at "full stretch" and only answering "risk-to-life calls".

Many motorists had to spend the night sleeping in their cars after being left stranded on roads that were 5ft (1.5m) deep in water in some places.

The M5 has reopened but the M50 remains closed eastbound between jcts 4 and 1.

Police have issued a number for people to call for details about the flooding. It is 0800 092 0410 and is open until 2000 BST on Saturday.

They are reiterating their appeal for people to only call 999 if it is a genuine life-threatening emergency.

Gloucestershire County Council said the situation was improving but there is still serious problems in certain areas.

Many roads in the Gloucester city area are now passable with care.

An RAF spokeswoman said a group of nine people, including a pregnant woman, had to be airlifted from land in Gloucestershire.

Dr Tim Brain, chief constable of Gloucestershire Police, said the force had attended more than 1,600 incidents over the last eight hours.

"A major incident was declared on Friday and we have worked closely with other 999 services, the county council, the military and voluntary agencies.

"The situation is certainly abating now and flood levels have decreased in most parts of the county. Most arterial routes are now open although Tewkesbury remains more or less cut off and we have one or two high-water marks to get through today which we will be watching with care," Dr Brain said.

Gloucester Fire and Rescue Service said they had also been inundated with calls.

MAJOR ROAD PROBLEMS - SATURDAY
A38 between Longford and Coombe Hill
M50 junctions closed eastbound between jct 4-1
Bourton High Street and Chipping Camden
A417 between Fairford and Lechlade closed
The Moreton-in-Marsh area is to be avoided

Chief fire officer Terry Standing, said: "Since the worst of the flood-related calls started coming in around lunchtime Friday, the service has rescued over 200 people from flooded homes, trapped vehicles and other scenarios.

"We have also been assisted by two Sea King helicopters from the RAF which have been working through the night.

"On average, the service receives 8,000 emergency calls in a year. We have received 1,800 in a single 12-hour period.

"Currently, we have 700 calls stacked up waiting to be dealt with and would ask members of the public only to call us in life-threatening situations.

"We've been dealing with some absolutely horrendous flooding particularly in Gloucester.

"Between 100 to 150 homes were flooded there and at one stage most of the roads in the city were inaccessible," he said.

Three RAF Sea King helicopters have so far flown a total of 36 missions across the county helping out the emergency services.

Wedding party trapped

The Environment Agency identified Longlevens as being at risk from flooding, as are Cheltenham, Prestbury, Bishops Cleeve, Winchcombe, Dursley and Stroud.

About 75 houses have been flooded in Longlevens, which was badly affected by flooding in June.

In Ashchurch, 200 motorists were stranded at a pub and about 500 people at a Little Chef cafe.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION CENTRES
Flooding in Bishops Cleeve pic from bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire
Gloucester city - GL1 Leisure centre open
Cotswolds - Moreton-in-Marsh Fire Service College
Tewkesbury - Rest centre open at borough council offices
Tewkesbury - Tewkesbury Abbey

The number of people in rest centres across the county is continuing to reduce but there are still larger numbers are in Tewkesbury and Gloucester.

A wedding party of 40 people became trapped by floodwater and had to be rescued from Badgeworth Church near Staverton.

Thirty-five people were put up at the Fire Service College at Moreton-in Marsh, including nine residents from a home for the elderly.

More than 500 people were housed at a leisure centre in Gloucester.

One man at the centre, Darren Carr, 34, said: "We are tired, fed up and we don't know when we are going home.

"Everyone here has been brilliant in the way they have looked after us but we just want our own beds and a shower now."

Roads across the county have been affected: the A44 near Moreton-in-Marsh is blocked in places, Highnam Court roundabout is flooded and Elmbridge Court roundabout through to Tewkesbury Road Roundabout is blocked.

Many other minor roads in the county are impassable.

In Bourton-on-the-Water motorists were being asked to drive carefully through flood water as the waves were causing further flooding in some homes.

Rail operator First Great Western (FGW) said flooding was causing major problems on services to Gloucester and Cheltenham.

Gloucestershire Police is warning of the danger of coming into contact with contaminated water.

People with urgent care needs should ring the county council on 01452 426868


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