Rising rivers threaten more flood misery for England

Posted at 7:26 AM, Feb 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-15 07:26:45-05

LONDON (CNN) — After a wild and stormy night that claimed two lives, many communities in southern England face a high risk of flooding Saturday from still-rising rivers.

Severe flood warnings are in place along the Thames Valley to the west of London, as well as in southwest and central England.

The Environment Agency warned that flood risk will continue for at least another week.

An elderly passenger died Friday aboard the British-based cruise ship MS Marco Polo after it was hit by a “freak wave during adverse sea conditions,” according to the ship’s owner, Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

The rogue wave struck as the ship made its way into the English Channel en route from the Azores to its home port in Tilbury, southeast England, it said.

As high winds whipped southern England on Friday night, a 49-year-old woman was killed when the front of a building collapsed onto her vehicle in central London, police said. Two other passengers in the car were injured. Police said the collapse happened during bad weather, but they were unable to say if it was directly related.

More rain is forecast over the weekend, pushing river levels ever higher.

Homes sandbagged

After the wettest January in England in 2½ centuries, February has so far brought little relief.

The River Thames has reached its highest levels for over 60 years in some places, bringing flood misery to thousands of people living in the Thames Valley.

The towns of Maidenhead and Windsor, where the queen has a castle, and communities in the counties of Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Reading are all at risk from the Thames.

Residents desperate to hold back the rising waters have sandbagged entrances to their homes and businesses.

Princes William and Harry lent their help to the flood defense effort Friday morning, as they joined soldiers who hefted sandbags in the village of Datchet in Berkshire.

There is also a risk of flooding on the River Severn in Gloucester and on the Somerset Levels, in southwest England. Some communities on the Somerset Levels have been inundated for weeks.

As well as high river levels, saturated ground from weeks of heavy rain mean that there is nowhere for water to go.

The Environment Agency has issued 20 severe flood warnings for Saturday, meaning there is a danger to life.

Severe gales, large waves and high sea levels are expected to bring a high risk of coastal flooding to parts of the Dorset coast on Saturday morning, the Environment Agency said.

Other areas along the south coast of England will also be battered by extreme weather.

Nearly 6,000 properties have been flooded since the beginning of December, more than 1,000 of them in the wealthy areas in the Thames Valley.

CNN’s Erin McLaughlin, Talia Kayali, Chelsea J. Carter and Brian Walker contributed to this report.