Great Britain

Flood-crisis town evacuated overnight amid fears barriers will buckle hours after defences failed just 20 miles away

FLOOD-HIT Ironbridge was evacuated overnight amid fears its defences are about to burst just hours after a nearby town was left submerged.

The Shropshire town was cleared as a 'danger to life' flood warning is issued for today by the Environment Agency.

Flood defences broke in Bewdley yesterday after people spent days battling against rising water levels and flood warnings in the wake of Storm Dennis.

Despite nearly 40 homes being evacuated in the flood-hit town and the warnings of danger, some people still refused to leave.

IT engineer John Howell, 48, who lives in Bewdley, said: “My friend rang me in tears saying her home had been wrecked by the floods.

“She evacuated before the floods overtopped the barriers, but everything in her bottom floor has been wrecked. She just didn’t have enough time to move everything.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that people are in utter despair. It’s a grim time for everyone.”

Downriver in Stourport, 10ft plastic dinosaurs at a children's play park were left with just their heads poking out above the floodwater.

Playland owner John Ready said of his half-drowned dinosaur: “It is bizarre seeing him positioned like that but it shows how deep the water has risen.

“It’s devastating. We’re told these storms are once in a hundred years, we’ve had two in a week.”

A yellow weather warning of snow and ice has been issued for much of the Midlands including the River Severn in Shropshire, where flood defences buckled under the pressure of water.

West Mercia Police said on Wednesday evening they were "waiting to see what happens overnight", as officers continued to tell people in the Wharfage to leave their homes and businesses.

Deputy Chief Constable Julian Moss said: "We are waiting to see what happens overnight and we are monitoring closely with colleagues at the Environment Agency, and an operational plan is in place with Shropshire Fire and Rescue should it be required."

A "swathe of wet weather" from the South West is due to push in overnight and into rush hour on Thursday, when two yellow weather warnings of snow have been issued by the Met Office.

Meteorologist Alex Burkill said: "It's not just the snow, there's going to be a fair bit of rainfall mixed in with it.

"It's not going to be large amounts, between 10-15mm of rain in some places, but it could be falling on heavily saturated areas."

Flooding along parts of the River Severn, which remained close to its highest levels in some areas, is likely until at least Sunday, the Environment Agency said.

A severe flood warning covering the river at Wharfage remained in place on Wednesday night, while 92 flood warnings and 132 flood alerts had been issued.

Earlier on Wednesday, police could be seen knocking on doors along the riverside to ensure that residents living on Wharfage had left their homes.

Temporary flood defences had been pushed back towards a pub and other businesses, sparking fears that the defences could be fully breached.

England has received over 200% of its average February rainfall, according to the Environment Agency, with some areas experiencing a month's worth of rain in 24 hours.

Toby Willison, executive director of operations at the Environment Agency, said: "Our operational teams continue to work night and day to protect communities alongside the River Severn, which is experiencing record levels.

"River levels will remain exceptionally high on the Severn for some time and communities, in particular Shrewsbury, Bewdley, Bridgnorth and Ironbridge, should prepare for potentially ongoing severe flooding."

Emergency services respond to Bewdley in Worcestershire as the River Severn flows over the flood barriers protecting the town