Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Sunday, 20 July 2008 17:19 UK

Service marks floods anniversary

Chain of hope around Tewkesbury Abbey
The "chain of hope" was to contrast with the iconic images of the flooding

Hundreds of people have attended a service at Tewkesbury Abbey to mark the first anniversary of floods that devastated the town.

Thousands had to leave their homes and businesses when local rivers burst their banks in July 2007.

Dozens of families in Tewkesbury are still living in caravans while their homes are being repaired.

Councillor Vernon Smith: "People are still worried if we have the same rain tomorrow the same result would happen."

Mr Smith said: "If you look around Tewkesbury no ditches have been cleaned out, there is no major improvement.

"How many more lives do we have to lose before the government stops using a risk-based approach because who takes the risk? We do."

'Deep scars'

Town crier Mike Kean-Price said the events of last July had been "very traumatic" for the town.

"You want to help but it is difficult - people are very proud. You see them ripping up their carpets and throwing all their worldly goods out into a skip.

"Those are very deep scars."

A "chain of hope" was formed around the abbey after the service.

Organisers wanted the linking of hands to show that the town, which lost three people to the floods, was back in business.

Tewkesbury underwater
Tewkesbury was quickly overwhelmed by water in July 2007

Hundreds of county residents - from chief constable Dr Tim Brain to a local scout group - formed the unbroken chain around the 1,500ft (457m) perimeter of the abbey.

Vicar of Tewkesbury, the Reverend Canon Paul Williams said the idea was to contrast the iconic image of the abbey taken during the floods - which still showed resilience and hope - with the new picture of a town full of people enjoying themselves, joining hands.

The floods recovery minister, John Healey, was among the congregation.

He said work such as better defences for the water pumping stations and the electricity substations, meant "we would be in better shape, better prepared, better planned if it happened again".

Thousands of homes and businesses in England were affected by the flooding, generating insurance claims of more than 3bn.

According to the Environment Agency, 55,000 homes and businesses across the country were flooded.


SEE ALSO
Flood-hit areas to share in 31m
17 Jul 08 |  Gloucestershire
County 'came close to disaster'
10 Jul 08 |  Gloucestershire
Flood wardens wanted in county
11 May 08 |  Gloucestershire

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