An immediate evacuation is taking place as rising waters on the River Severn “overwhelmed” a town’s flood defences.
A kink in the barriers at Ironbridge, Shropshire, meant water seeped underneath, resulting in police evacuating part of the town.
Severe flood warnings for the River Severn have been issued for Ironbridge and Shrewsbury following days of heavy rain.
Residents were earlier evacuated from their homes in Bewdley, Worcestershire.
Sally Yardley left her ground floor flat in Bewdley just before midnight on Tuesday, saying: “The water was rising really quickly”.
The Environment Agency (EA) said river levels were “still rising”.
Shrewsbury and Worcester are also among the areas at risk of flooding along the River Severn.
‘Everything is floating’
Ms Yardley, whose flat overlooks the river, said she was worried about her possessions. “We haven’t got anywhere to put them,” she said.
“We’ve got no insurance, they wouldn’t insure us, and we’ve got no upstairs.
“I don’t think we ever predicted it would be this bad,” the 64-year-old added.
Ironbridge, Shrewsbury and Worcester are among the areas at risk of flooding along the River Severn.
West Mercia Police said 38 properties in Beales Corner, Bewdley, have either flooded or are at risk. Many have been rescued, but some are refusing leave.
Dave Throup, EA manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, said Wednesday would be “a big day – again” for flooding in the region.
In an update on Twitter, he said: “The river levels are exceptionally high here at Bewdley and they haven’t stopped yet. The river is still rising at a much slower rate and we’re expecting a peak here probably this afternoon and then that’s working its way down the catchment to Worcester.”
The situation would be monitored at Upton-upon-Severn and settlements below that, including Tewkesbury.
The barriers near Mrs Yardley’s home in Beales Corner which breached are not the main defences in the town. These remain in place in Severnside, although people are advised to avoid the area.
Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is going house-to-house in the area with a dingy and helping people from their homes.
It is not yet clear whether the flood levels will top Bewdley’s highest ever recorded levels in 2000, however water is expected to keep rising throughout the day, by up to 20cm.
Justin Leach was rescued on a dinghy from his home in Bewdley, where he has lived since August.
“It’s unprecedented what’s happened over the last week, 10 days, what can you do. People are trying their best,” he said.
Sarah, a mum-of-four who also lives in Beales Corner, said her family will be staying put despite a foot of water in her cellar.
“It’s deep, it’s the top of a welly,” she said. “Everything is floating, we’ve lost some stuff down there and we’ve had to turn the gas off.
“Because we’re a bigger family, when there’s six of you, mobilising us and coming to stay is going to be difficult.”
“If I thought there was any real danger we would go but at the moment we’re staying put,” she said.
At the scene: James Pearson, BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester
The flood barriers in Bewdley are temporary barriers, they were overtopped last night at about 19:00 GMT. It started as a trickle then turned into a torrent.
The floodwater now is about the same level as the river. Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service has started to take people out of the properties affected on Beales Corner. It’s not flooded before while the temporary barriers have been here.
The levels are 14cm off the all time high from 2000 and they’re expected to keep rising steadily throughout the day to about that level.
So it’s unclear at the moment whether we’re going to have a new record for the River Severn in Bewdley today but right now, levels have been steady overnight, they’re going to keep rising throughout the day – 10, 15, maybe 20cm.
The Environment Agency (EA) feared flood waters would breach defences in Ironbridge on Tuesday night, and while the barriers held it said the town was still at risk.
A warning was issued to people living along the river to move possessions to safety and have a bag prepared in case they needed to leave their homes.
Rising waters meant the barriers in the town had moved 3m however the defences are still operational.
Telford and Wrekin Council Leader, Shaun Davies, said he was “encouraged” but “the strain on them [the barriers] is very evident”.
River Severn levels are expected to remain high over the next few days due to “unsettled” weather, the EA said, adding it was “closely monitoring the situation”.
Levels are expected to reach up to 6.85m upstream in Buildwas and there is another severe warning for Shrewsbury.
Train lines remain closed out of Shrewsbury railway station due to high water levels under the Severn Railway Bridge and trains are only running out of the station towards Crewe and Chester.
Network Rail said it could not provide a firm estimate as to how long the disruption would last but it would be carrying out a safety inspection later.
River levels are also continuing to rise in Worcester, however the city’s main bridge remains open.
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