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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
Thames flood sees homes evacuated
Botley Road, Oxford
Andrew Roland took this picture of Botley Road in Oxford
Hundreds of homes in Oxfordshire have been evacuated as flood waters continue to rise dramatically in the county.

The Environment Agency said levels are peaking in Abingdon, where 585 homes were flooded, and will peak in a few hours in Wallingford and Henley.

Osney Mead substation, which supplies Oxford with electricity, had been under threat but fire crews using pumping equipment have managed to protect it.

Two of the main roads in to the city, Botley and Abingdon Roads, are closed.

There's now a whole-scale evacuation of homes in the area, hundreds of homes are being evacuated because they've been flooded
Dr Evan Harris, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon

Thames Valley Police said emergency services had begun to evacuate people from about 250 homes in the Osney area of Oxford overnight. More than 90 people had left their homes by Wednesday morning.

Police were advising residents who needed shelter to make their way to Oxford United's Kassam Stadium.

Over the weekend, the county council transformed the stadium into a makeshift centre ready to house up to 1,500 people.

The roads affected by flooding are Botley Road, in the vicinity of Osney, East Street, West Street, South Street, Bridge Street, Riverside Road and Earl Street.

Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, has criticised the flood defences in the area, saying they were no longer able to cope with the climate.

"There's now a whole-scale evacuation of homes in the area, hundreds of homes are being evacuated because they've been flooded, and it's not clear that the water levels have reached their peak," he said.

"Despite this area being flooded in 2000 and 2003, both of which were described as a one-in-40-year event. It's clearly now a three-in-seven-year event."

Sandbags delivered

Severe flood warnings remain in force for the Thames - from Oxford to Abingdon - and for the River Ock - from Charney Bassett to Abingdon.

The Thames is expected to peak further downstream, at Wallingford and Henley, on Wednesday afternoon. It has already burst its banks there and some homes have been flooded.

John Lloyd, of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "We've got a steady but constant rise of flood water levels within Oxford city centre particularly on the western side of the city."

In preparation for rivers bursting their banks, thousands of sandbags were delivered to households across the county.

Oxfordshire fire chiefs have divided the county into 11 areas where firefighters will assess local situations.

Abingdon Road in Oxford
Abingdon Road in Oxford has been closed

An Oxfordshire County Council spokeswoman said: "Strategic planning remains in place for Oxford and Abingdon and the fire and rescue service will recommit resources here if necessary.

"However, the police are leafleting an area of Henley that may flood and the fire service is putting in resources to meet any potential life-threatening incidents from Abingdon south to the Henley area.

"They won't be able to start pumping water away from homes in the south of the county until after the water levels have subsided."

Keith Wheal, head of the Oxfordshire County Council Countryside Service, said: "We would like to warn people to stay away from river and canal towpaths until water levels have significantly dropped. "

Sandbags have been made available in Bridge End car park in Dorchester and Kings Road car park in Henley, while a further delivery of 60 tons of sand is expected in Henley.

Many primary schools were forced to shut early for the summer holidays because of the threat of flooding and many roads were closed.


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