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The day the rains came down... again

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 08, 2014

By Tristan Cork

  • A resident takes a photograph of flood water which has continued to rise in Langport, Somerset, main image, while just down the road Environment Agency workers lay sandbags as the River Parrett overflows in the town, pictured below PICTURES: FRAN STOTHARD

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tristan.cork@b-nm.co.uk

The winter floods had a sting in the tail for large parts of the West yesterday as more homes and businesses were swamped yet again.

River levels rose sharply throughout the day after a series of thunderstorms trundled across Somerset and Wiltshire in the morning – and by tea-time more homes than ever were flooded out.

Forecasters had promised the weather would quieten down – and that remains the outlook for the second half of the week – but heavy showers overnight and yesterday morning brought more flooding misery.

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Dozens of flood warnings remained in place across the West, although the threat of major coastal flooding appeared to ease with a weakening wind and storm.

Overnight and in the early hours of yesterday morning, the alert siren was sounded on the Dorset coast at Chiswell, where residents were warned to stay in upstairs rooms at the back of their homes as giant waves crashed over sea defences.

In Somerset, the vast swathes of the Levels that are already underwater showed no signs of drying up – in fact the water level rose initially yesterday.

Meanwhile council chiefs launched a three-pronged bid to help flood-hit home-owners and communities. Somerset County Council is proposing more than £250,000 in new funding to help those hit by floods. It comes on the back of £300,000 of funding committed towards schemes that help prevent flooding in the first place.

The new proposals will see a £50,000 grant to help people suffering hardship after flooding at home, £200,000 in grants available for flood schemes and the £300,000 for partnership work with other agencies to begin to dredge key rivers including the Parrett; a commitment to lobby Government and the Environment Agency for extra flood prevention funding for Somerset.

"We really understand how traumatic it is when your home, business or community suffers flooding and we want to act quickly to help," said Cabinet member David Hall.

In Wiltshire, homes and businesses in Salisbury city centre were flooded, as were nearby villages on the River Ebble, which burst its banks and flooded around 20 homes in Coombe Bissett.

Further north, a huge thunderstorm at breakfast time in Malmesbury prompted flooding by the afternoon as the River Avon burst its banks for the fifth time in a week. It was the final straw for the town's football club, whose directors held an emergency meeting as the waters rose, and pledged to move out.

Club secretary Julie Exton said they would initially launch a £5,000 fundraising appeal to save the club in the short term, and in the long term look for a new home.

"Postponed matches and social functions coupled with the further costs of repairs and flood avoidance measures have depleted the club's reserve funding to nil," she said.

Further down the same river in Bradford on Avon, the mayor pledged that flood prevention action would be taken after the town's only road bridge was swamped yet again.

"We are on the case," said John Potter. "I am trying to get a meeting with Wiltshire Council and the area board."

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