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River Thames breaches its banks near London - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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People loads their boats with sandbags on a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

People loads their boats with sandbags on a flooded street, in Datchet, England, on Monday, February 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

London, AP—The River Thames has burst its banks after reaching its highest level in years, flooding riverside towns upstream of London.

Residents and British troops had piled up sandbags to protect properties from the latest bout of flooding, but the river overwhelmed their defenses Monday, leaving areas including the center of the village of Datchet underwater.

The Environment Agency has issued 14 severe flood warning—meaning there’s a danger to life—along the Thames east of Windsor, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from London.

Its chief executive, Paul Leinster, said “extreme weather will continue to threaten communities this week,” with more Thames flooding expected Tuesday.

There were no flood alerts for the part of the river that flows through London. That tidal stretch is protected by the Thames Barrier, a series of giant metal gates that can be closed to protect the city from surges.

England has had its wettest January since 1766. Its southwest coast has been battered repeatedly by storms and a large area of the low-lying Somerset Levels in the southwest has been under water for more than a month.

The disaster has sparked a political storm, with the Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led government facing criticism from many residents for allegedly failing to dredge rivers and take other flood-prevention measures.

Both Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited flood-hit areas Monday as the government struggled to take charge of the flooding crisis.

Cameron denied the government had been slow to respond.

“We have been dealing with it from the very moment it started,” he said. “Where money was needed, we provided more money. Where military was needed, I made sure the military was deployed.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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