Worst UK Flooding in 60 Years Oxford Under Water as England's Flood Spreads

Flooding in England has spread to the university city of Oxford where hundreds of homes were evacuated after the River Thames burst its banks. Windsor could be next. Insurers put the damage at more than $7 billion.


Britain's worst flooding in 60 years reached Oxford on Wednesday as hundreds of homes in the university city were evacuated.

Residents of other historic towns such as Windsor, home to the world-famous Windsor Castle, one of Queen Elizabeth's residences, were warned they could be next as the Thames River burst its banks. More rain is expected.

Some 250 homes in Oxford were evacuated after tributaries of the Thames spilled over into the streets.

In the western county of Gloucestershire, which has been worst hit by flooding, waters started to recede along the Severn River, but residents are bracing for more rain.

The insurance bill alone for the flooding could hit £3 billion ($7.2 billion), insurers say. Homeowners in some of the most flood-prone regions may find it difficult to get insurance in the future.

In the Gloucestershire town of Tewkesbury, a woman went into early labor during the flood but lost her newborn twins, who were born prematurely at 21 weeks, when she was trapped by the rising waters. The mother and her twins were rescued by two Royal Air Force (RAF) helicopters after an ambulance crew was unable to reach them. All three were flown to hospital, where the twins died.

'Extreme Weather Conditions'

"We are looking at 21st century extreme weather conditions," said Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose government has promised £10 million in aid for the stricken areas -- in addition to £14 million initially pledged.

Brown said Britain will have to review its infrastructure and drainage system to brace for further flooding in the future.

Asked if the Labour government had done enough over the past decade in office, Brown said investment in flood defenses had already been doubled to £600 million before the current crisis, "so we are aware more has got to be done for defenses."

One power distribution station in Gloucestershire came close to flooding. Emergency services worked frantically to shore up defenses as the water came within 6 inches (15 centimeters) of breaching them.

That would have left up to 500,000 people without power and plunged hospitals, stores, shops and homes into chaos.

cro/Reuters/AP

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