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Floods Leave England Awash As Fires Burn Across Continental Europe

File image of the current floods in England. AFP image.
by Staff Writers
Tewkesbury UK (AFP) Jul 27, 2007
Britain's royals visited the scene of the country's worst floods in 60 years Friday as emergency teams battled to cope with the crisis -- one week after it struck. Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and his sister Princess Anne -- both Gloucestershire residents -- visited victims there and in neighbouring Worcestershire, two of the English counties worst hit by the floods.

Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited Upton-upon-Severn, Cheltenham, and Tewkesbury, some of the towns hardest hit, to meet families, volunteers and emergency workers.

"I've seen some obviously disastrous horrors that have affected so many people," he said afterwards. "What I have found so wonderful is the spirit the people have displayed.

"One of the things I have found about the British is when faced with disaster it brings out the best in us."

Anne met affected residents and business people in the Gloucester suburbs.

Neither Charles's Highgrove estate nor Anne's Gatcombe Park home were hit by the extreme weather.

Hundreds of locals turned out in sunny weather to see Charles and Camilla chat with residents in an Upton street still partly underwater, and stop for a drink at a nearby pub.

The floods, the second set to hit Britain within a month, have claimed at least two lives and the total number of properties swamped could reach 15,000.

Four people were killed in the June 24-25 floods which affected north and central England.

The most recent floods, affecting Britain's two longest rivers -- the Severn and the Thames and their tributaries -- have left 130,000 homes without tap water after a treatment plant flooded.

More than 300,000 people have been told they face up to two weeks without drinkable tap water.

Flooded roads and rails have caused travel chaos.

The floodwaters continued subsiding slowly Friday in better weather, but heavy rain was expected to lash the area again overnight Saturday and on into Sunday.

The Environment Agency is maintaining a severe flood warning on the Thames in the university city of Oxford -- meaning there is an imminent danger to life and property.

It has also issued 12 standard flood warnings across the region, meaning that flooding is expected to affect homes, businesses and main roads.

"As the rivers in the Thames region are currently full, forecast rainfall could lead to some of the more responsive rivers rising again rapidly," the agency spokeswoman said.

"This rain is going to be locally heavy with up to 30 millimetres in places and is expected to last for six to nine hours. This rainfall could cause flooding from the surface run-off."

Gloucestershire chief constable Tim Brain said six million litres (1.6 million gallons) of water had been supplied to the county Thursday. Some 120 million litres are normally used daily.

And after reports of theft of water and fighting to get it, Brain warned that perpetrators would face prison.

Tewkesbury, one of the towns worst hit, was beginning to receive a limited supply of running water.

Microbiologists have warned of a danger of potentially-lethal bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella being left behind in the sludge as flood waters recede.

Harjit Singh Gill, the mayor of Gloucester, launched an appeal fund to help the victims.

Uninsured locals face having to pay the cost of replacing damaged carpets, furniture and other valuables out of their own funds, while many businesses fear they may not be able to recover.

Meteorologists said Thursday that the three months from May to July were already easily the wettest in England and Wales since records began in 1766. The Met Office said 387.6 millimetres (15.3 inches) of rain had fallen.

earlier related report
Southern Europe battles wildfires as temperatures ease
Athens (AFP) July 27 - Southern Europe battled remaining wildfires Friday as a blistering heatwave eased across the parched region and Italy declared a state of disaster for its worst-affected areas. The government declaration, covering central and southern Italy, came after a week of devastating fires that have claimed five lives.

The move frees up funds for compensating victims in the Campania region around Naples as well as Abruzzo, Calabria, Apulia, Sicily and Sardinia.

Most of the hundreds of fires had been brought under control by Friday except for at the Pollino National Park in Calabria and Basilicate, one of Italy's biggest, which has been ablaze since Sunday.

The environmental group WWF on Friday doubled its estimate of the amount of protected area that has burned, to 9,000 hectares (22,500 acres).

The group blamed arsonists. "Most of the fires of the past few days have been of a criminal nature," it said in a statement on Thursday, adding: "It is well known that fire almost always serves to get rid of trees and other natural obstacles to make way for new hotels, villas or pastures."

Prosecutors in southern Castrovillari, investigating the Pollino park fires, also spoke of "premeditated" action and implicated organised crime.

Greek firefighters battled over a dozen wildfires for a fourth day, but officials said the situation was improving.

"Generally we are doing well, our only major front is in (the southern region of) Achaia in the Peloponnese," Greek fire brigade spokesman Yiannis Stamoulis told AFP.

Wildfires in Achaia have destroyed around 100 homes and properties since Tuesday, killing three elderly villagers who did not flee the area.

The expected arrival of Russian reinforcements in the form of water-dousing aircraft was postponed until Saturday evening,

Two Russian firefighting helicopters will be sent to the northern city of Salonika and will be deployed depending on need, a defence ministry source said.

"Around 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) are estimated to have been burned," western Greece regional supervisor Spyros Spyridonos told NET state television.

Fires were raging from the northern regions of Ioannina, Kastoria, Florina, Pieria, Kozani and Salonika to the southern region of Messinia.

Firefighters had trouble reaching two of the blazes in Ioannina and Kastoria because of landmines dating from World War II and the Greek Civil War over 60 years ago.

In Croatia, a fire which since Tuesday ravaged the island of Solta, putting some 400 tourists to flight, was contained after having destroyed some 400 hectares of forest and olive groves. But fires still raged in the national park on Velebit mountain, and near the southern town of Vrgorac.

Authorities in Bulgaria said over 23,000 hectares (56,835 acres) of forest and farmland were swept by fires this week that called for the assistance of even prison inmates in certain areas.

The southern regions of Kazanlak and Maglizh remained under a state of emergency on Friday, and the situation was still critical in the central region of Stara Zagora, Pazardzhik and Smolian to the south, and Kyustendil to the west.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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More Rains Forecast As England And Wales See Wettest Months Since 1766
Henley-On-Thames, England (AFP) July 26, 2007
More rains were forecast Thursday for flood-hit areas where meteorologists said the three months from May to July were the wettest in England and Wales since records began in 1766. The heavy rains came in two waves, one on June 24 and 25, that flooded much of northern and central England, killing four people, and another on July 20 that submerged swathes of south and west England.

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