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Swollen Thames threatens thousands of homes

Update : 10 Feb 2014, 05:34 PM

Thousands of homes along the River Thames in the United Kingdom are threatened with flooding as water levels continue to rise, reports BBC.

Fourteen severe flood warnings are in place in Berkshire and Surrey, while two remain in Somerset.

Homes in the Berkshire village of Datchet are underwater and thousands more along the lower River Thames are threatened by flooding.

Thames Valley Police have declared a "major incident" in the east of the county.

Howard Davidson, from the Environment Agency said he expects conditions in Berkshire to deteriorate as more rain falls over the coming days.

"We have issued flood warnings from Datchet down to Shepperton, and we urge people to take heed of the flood warnings. We are anticipating another three or four inches on the Thames over the next 24 hours."

Amid criticism of Environment Agency head Lord Smith, PM David Cameron - who is in flood-hit Dorset - said it was not the time to change personnel.

A minister will answer an urgent question put by Labour in the Commons on the flooding crisis later.

Speaking from Portland, off the Dorset coast, Cameron said: "I am only interested in one thing and that is making sure that everything government can do is being done and will go on being done to help people through this difficult time.”

"There will be time later on to talk about things. Right now everybody's got to focus on the job in hand."

Cameron's comments follow a deepening political row.

Speaking earlier, Lord Smith said his staff knew "100 times" more about flooding than any politician and pointed out that they were bound by rules laid down by government.

He has insisted again he will not resign.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles previously said ministers had been given bad advice by the Environment Agency over river dredging.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Pickles are thought to be at odds over the performance of the Environment Agency.

Councillor Colin Rayner, from the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said: "We need help here. We need the police, we need the Army. We've got 50 volunteers here, we've got the vulnerable people out of their homes, now we need to get everyone else out."

One resident in Colnbrook, Berkshire, Asif Khan told the BBC: "The whole street is under water. We've got water coming through our house now, it's got above the air brick level. Our garage is completely flooded. The fridge just went bang. It's something out of a horror movie. So we're now going to take two small kids somehow through the street to the car which we've parked on the other road, and go to our in-laws."

Another resident Paul Palmer, who lives in the village of Hurst told BBC Radio Berkshire: "I've lived here for 44 years and I've never known anything like it. Every entrance, every exit to Hurst is flooded now. We've had no use of our toilets since Friday morning, our sewers are completely blocked and it's starting to back up into the toilet. The council won't offer an emergency toilet unless you're a council tenant. It's like going back to the dark ages. You'd think they could get at least one chemical toilet cubicle at the local village hall or something."

Several Thames gauges are showing their highest levels since being installed in the 1980s and 90s.

The flooding has also caused severe delays on several train lines, National Rail said.

Robin Gisby, managing director of Network Rail, said his team were watching "several hundred" sites across England carefully.

It's certain to infuriate those residents affected by flooding - but the floods crisis now appears to have developed into an ugly 'blame game' among the politicians.

First Communities Secretary Eric Pickles pointed at the Environment Agency and its boss Chris Smith, suggesting he should consider his position and accusing the agency of "misjudgements."

Now Lord Smith has hit back saying his staff know one hundred times more about floods than any politician and accusing ministers of "playing politics".

At the same time, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has protested to the prime minister over Mr Pickles' bruising criticism of the Environment Agency.

No wonder then that this morning Energy Secretary Ed Davey publicly appealed for an end to the blame game.

What does it tell us? That the floods crisis has all the potential to turn into a serious political crisis - hence the reason politicians are already taking sides.

"What I think is really significant, and it has got worse overnight, is Oxford down to the Thames Valley through Didcot, Reading, Maidenhead and into Paddington.

"This isn't now just flooding, this is groundwater. The land is so saturated we have got water rising up, just as much as flowing on to it. So it is difficult."

The main rail route into Devon and Cornwall via Bridgwater remains cut off because of problems caused by flooding and storm damage.

The line from Paddington to Exeter via Newbury is expected to reopen later following a drop in flood water levels at Athelney.

The line from Waterloo to Exeter via Yeovil, closed due to a landslip at Crewkerne on Saturday, has reopened.

More than 300 less serious warnings and alerts have been issued by the Environment Agency, mostly in southern England and the Midlands.

The Met Office has no rain warnings in place for Monday, but it is warning of ice across much of the UK.

But forecasters say another area of low pressure is expected to reach the UK on Monday night and into Tuesday, bringing more heavy rain.

Peter Sloss, of the BBC Weather Centre, said Monday would be the "driest day of the week" but he warned there would be 20-40mm (1-2in) of rain for many areas by the end of Thursday.

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