FLOODING: County on red alert

Herald Series: Flood barriers in Bullstake Close are set up by, from left, Colin Cooper, Steve Boyd and Steve Carter Flood barriers in Bullstake Close are set up by, from left, Colin Cooper, Steve Boyd and Steve Carter

ABOUT 10,000 homes in Oxfordshire were under the threat of flooding last night as a surge swept through the county’s waterways.

The total included almost 5,000 homes in Oxford itself that were placed on red alert by the Environment Agency as residents were urged to take action.

Several rivers were also peaking last night as the Environment Agency worked to try to minimise the number of properties at risk.

Environment Agency statistics showed that the River Cherwell at Kings Mill in Marston, Oxford, was a centimetre higher than during the July 2007 floods.

Sand and bags were made available at PC World in Botley Road, and Bullstake Close for all worried Oxford residents, as more than 4,500 sandbags were delivered to countywide properties.

The county council said rest centres were being set up in the event of evacuations.

Defence barriers were deployed near Hinksey Lane, South Oxford and at Osney Island in the hope of protecting hundreds of properties from damage.

Nick Gee, 45, a pest controller from Binsey, said: “I heard the warnings and went charging out to get some sandbags. Binsey is a little community village of about 20 houses and I have a Land Rover so I am doing the runs for the village. The water surrounds us on both sides.”

Yesterday officials said 14 homes or businesses had been recorded as being flooded in Oxfordshire since Thursday.

Rainfall overnight Sunday and into yesterday morning resulted in nine flood warnings – where immediate action must be taken – placed on rivers in Oxfordshire, with five coming in quick succession shortly after 8am.

Hundreds of residents living near the River Cherwell from Lower Heyford down to Cherwell Bridge, the Thame, and Thames and tributaries at Kennington, New Botley, New and North Hinksey and Grandpont, Binsey, Osney and Osney Island, Newbridge and Kings Lock above Oxford were all placed on the highest warning issued by the Environment Agency.

Environment Agency spokeswoman Jessica Davison said residents must prepare for the worst.

“River levels are still increasing and we cannot rule out any property flooding in the next few days,” she said.

“We are working with our partners in and around Oxford where there are very high numbers of properties at risk to warn the public and erect the demountable defences.”

High-risk flooding areas across Oxfordshire were targeted as a combined effort between emergency services, district councils, the county council and the Highways Agency kicked into gear.

The slip road into Kennington was closed by Vale of White Horse District Council to prevent drivers entering the village from the Oxford end and to offer protection to residents living near the flood plain.

Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service’s operations and resilience manager Nigel Wilson, urged residents of properties in potential flood areas to stay alert.

“Failure to heed these warnings puts drivers and passengers at the risk of being trapped in their vehicle and any disturbance of the flood water from a passing vehicle increases the damage to surrounding properties,” he said.

Among those picking up sandbags at PC World in Botley Road was Andy Egan, 49, of Earl Street. He said: “The first thing my four-year-old son Kai wanted to save and move upstairs was his Lego. The water may well come across Botley Road to our road as it did in 2007.”

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