Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Tuesday, 31 July 2007 09:59 UK

Clean-up under way after floods

Furniture damaged in the floods in Thatcham, Berkshire
A clean-up operation is under way in all flood affected areas

A massive clean-up operation is under way in the Thames Valley in the aftermath of last week's floods.

Hundreds of homes across Berkshire and Oxfordshire were affected by torrential rain, which caused many rivers - including the Thames - to overflow.

The Environment Agency has downgraded all its flood warnings for the area but a number of flood watches remain.

Most people who were forced out of their homes by the rising water have now been able to return.

Although in these extreme events we can't always stop the floodwater, we can warn people in advance
Colin Candish
Environment Agency

Colin Candish, regional flood risk manager, said: "Although the water has stabilised and begun to recede from most of the affected properties, there is still much work to be done.

"We have staff out on the ground every day visiting the affected areas to offer advice on how to recover from the distress of a flood."

For people who were not insured, help is being offered by charities and housing associations. The Bishop of Oxford has launched an appeal to help those families who were hardest hit by the floods.

Bulky waste

Councils in both counties are providing special bulky waste collections.

Larger items that have been damaged in the floods will be picked up free of charge.

Councils are asking residents to hold on to any sandbags they have if they have the space.

The Environment Agency is also appealing for people to sign up to its flood warning scheme.

Mr Candish said: "Floodline Warnings Direct automatically alerts people to rising rivers and possible flooding, giving people the vital hours they need to protect their home and belongings.

"Although in these extreme events we can't always stop the floodwater, we can warn people in advance."

He said residents can call the Floodline number - 0845 988 1188 - to find out if they live in a flood-prone area covered by the scheme.

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