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West remains on flood alert as extreme weather hits region

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 26, 2012

  • A garden shed trapped against the footbridge on the River Chew

  • The Swan at Wedmore has been closed after several feet of flood water entered the cellar

  • Jim and Jo Smith of the Queens Arms in Chew Magna mop up

  • Cattle on higher ground in flooded fields near Bradford-on-Tone

  • These ramblers appear to be walking on water as they take the River Parrett Trail near Stathe

  • Vital blood stocks have had to move

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The West remains on flood alert after a day of deluges across England and Wales, which closed main line rail routes and forced police to declare the extreme weather a ‘major incident’.

The Meterological Office forecast heavy rain for the West overnight and more showers today.

Thirteen flood alerts remained on rivers and streams across Somerset, Bristol and parts of Wiltshire last night, including the Avon, Frome, Bristol Floating harbour, Parrett, Brue and Chew.

Yesterday the West heaved a sigh of relief as Wales, the North and East suffered the worst of the downpours which brought chaos to many journeys.

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An inquest also began yesterday into floods at a vital NHS centre where blood for hospitals across the region is stored.

Businesses and home-owners were also still clearing up and counting the cost of Monday’s downpours in the West.

Water levels have risen in the rivers draining the Somerset Levels where torrential rains this spring and summer led to hundreds of acres of grassland on Curry Moor being ruined by standing water – which led to a plague of mosquitoes. Even some willow growers had crops ruined by the earlier inundations.

An Environment Agency spokesman said yesterday: “The situation on Curry Moor is that we will operate the pumps when we can. The river levels are quite high and we need capacity in the river to be able to use the pumps and we expect to be able to increase in the next 24-48 hours.”

Meanwhile, almost a dozen houses in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire have been damaged by flooding.

Blocked drains caused raw sewage to erupt from drains in Steam Mills during Monday’s deluge, spewing into homes.

Carol Marsh, who lives in Steam Mills with her husband Clinton, sons Callum and Adam and daughter Aisia, said: “It was horrendous.”

Francis and George Manns have been living there for over 40 years and this is the first time they have experienced any kind of flooding.

And many communities in the Chew Valley are continuing to mop up in the aftermath of the floods. The River Chew and Winford Brook burst their banks as heavy rain brought Chew Magna and Chew Stoke to a standstill.

Chew Valley School remained open but the primary schools in Chew Magna and Chew Stoke were closed.

And in Bristol the largest blood manufacturing facility in the world has relocated its supplies to save its stock and keep up with hospital demand.

The NHS Blood and Transplant centre in Filton managed to move all stocks to alternative sites after the centre – located in a business park close to water – was hit in the storm. Sources at the centre – built in 2008 – said that it was an accident waiting to happen, adding that the site was built on a flood plain.

The NHS insisted that no stock was lost during the incident and said it was working with the Environment Agency to ensure that heavy rain in the future will not affect the life-saving service. Staff at the 24-hour site reported they were up to their knees in water on Monday after the area around the centre flooded.

One worker said: “We have been waiting for it to happen for four years.”

The NHS said that the risks were assessed properly before the site was built. A spokesperson said: “A risk forecast was determined and a factor added for additional rainfall due to climate change.”

More than 600,000 donations are processed there each year. It serves 90 hospitals.

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