Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Oxford floods ...

Oxford floods deepen as more rain is forecast

By Richard Edwards
1 of 2 Images
Allotments in Oxford as the floods extended into the Thames Valley
Allotments in Oxford. In pictures: UK under water: Oxon | Worcs | Glos

Flooding may have caused greater devastation in affected areas than the foot and mouth crisis, farmers warned last night, as the floods extended throughout the Thames Valley.

Oxford became the latest area hit yesterday and parts of the city will be left under water for two days.

There are further fears with forecasters predicting up to half an inch of rain today in some areas already suffering.

The worst floods in modern history have now stretched more than 150 miles along the Severn and Thames from western England towards London.

Farmers in the worst-hit areas of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire said it could take three years to recover from the disaster and said the impact could be worse than that of foot and mouth outbreak of 2001.

David Fursdon, President of the Country Land and Business Association, said: "In affected areas it could be worse than foot and mouth disease as in this situation there's no automatic right to compensation. One farmer has lost 200 acres of arable crops and many are battling to save their livestock."

The National Farmers' Union has drawn up a list in Gloucestershire alone of 20 high-risk farms. Dozens of dairies - which require up to 10,000 litres of water a day - are under threat and farmers are using winter supplies to survive. Entire summer crops have also been wiped out, which are likely to send food prices soaring. Ian Johnston, of the NFU, said: "We are facing a complete catastrophe."

Oxfordshire became the focus of the continuing flood crisis. Emergency rescues were carried out at 250 homes in west Oxford in the early hours and authorities confirmed 900 homes in the county have now been flooded.

Emergency services battled successfully to save the Osney Mead electricity sub-station, which provides power to most of the city.

However, 200 people off Abingdon Road, one of the main routes into the city, had their power supplies cut last night and are not likely to be reconnected until later today.

The developments came despite Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, announcing in the Commons on Tuesday that he "anticipated no additional, significant flooding in Oxfordshire".

Dr Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said he was surprised by the error. He said: "Why did the Government and the Environment Agency get that prediction wrong? These floods are not 1 in 40 year occurrences, since this has now happened three years in eight."

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