Ironbridge
© PA Media
Police are evacuating residents in Wharfage, Ironbridge
An emergency evacuation is taking place as rising waters on the River Severn "overwhelmed" a town's flood defences.

A kink in the barriers at Ironbridge, Shropshire, meant water seeped underneath, resulting in police evacuating part of the town.

West Mercia Police said the defences "appear to be buckling", adding "virtually everyone" in the Wharfage area had agreed to leave.

Residents were earlier evacuated from their homes in Bewdley, Worcestershire.

A severe flood warning for the River Severn has been issued for Ironbridge following days of heavy rain.

ironbridge
However, a severe warning for the river at Shrewsbury was removed on Wednesday afternoon. A flood warning remains in place, meaning properties remain at risk, and river levels are expected to remain high into the weekend.

Flooding has also seen:
  • River levels continue to rise in Worcester, where they are expected to peak overnight
  • Levels being monitored at Upton-upon-Severn and settlements below that, including Tewkesbury
  • Disruption to train services in and out of Shrewsbury station
"There is a bit of water that's getting underneath and the barriers have become ineffective," Chris Bainger, from the Environment Agency (EA) said.

"At the moment, the pumps are actually dealing with it but over time that level is going to rise, hopefully gradually, behind there and it's going to get up to that 1.8m level."

Ch Supt Tom Harding said: "They can see the barrier itself is flexing - so the barrier hasn't actually failed, it's still intact, it's still in place but it's not performing as we would want it to."

"In areas it appears that it is buckling," he added.

The force said parts of the barrier had shifted across the width of the road and were now resting against properties.

Structural engineers are on site, Ch Supt Harding said, but in the meantime he has taken "the practical worst case scenario" in ordering an emergency evacuation.

In Ironbridge, 36 properties have been evacuated, while one or two residents have remained in their homes.

A drone has been used to survey a 500m section of the temporary flood defence in the town after residents reported hearing a loud bang when a barrier was shunted into a kerbstone by the fast-flowing Severn.

"Over the next 24/48 hours as the river level here drops, we will move in and do some work to shore up the area and make sure it stays put," Mr Sitton-Kent said.
Ironbridge
© PA Media
The force of the river caused defences in Ironbridge to buckle
Ironbridge Gorge was declared a World Heritage site in 1986 to recognise its importance as a pioneering part of the Industrial Revolution.

It was one of the first locations to be given the status in the UK.

Just before midnight on Tuesday, 38 properties in Beales Corner, Bewdley, either flooded or were at risk. Many people were rescued, but about 12 people remain in their homes.

Sally Yardley, 64, left her ground floor flat which overlooks the river.

"The water was rising really quickly... I don't think we ever predicted it would be this bad," she said.

Dave Throup, EA manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, said: "The river levels are exceptionally high here at Bewdley and they haven't stopped yet.

"The river is still rising at a much slower rate and we're expecting a peak here probably this afternoon and then that's working its way down the catchment to Worcester."

The river's peak is now heading down stream towards Worcester, where some homes have been flooded for 10 days in the wake of Storm Dennis.
Bewdley
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Residents in Bewdley started leaving their homes around midnight
Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is going house-to-house in the area with a dinghy and helping people from their homes. It is not yet clear whether the flood levels will top Bewdley's highest ever recorded levels in 2000, however water is expected to keep rising throughout the day, by up to 20cm.

"It's unprecedented what's happened over the last week, 10 days, what can you do? People are trying their best," he said.

BBC Hereford and Worcester's James Pearson said the flood barriers overtopped last night, starting as a trickle then turning into a torrent.

He said the flood water was about the same level as the river and it had not flooded while the temporary barriers were there.

The levels were 14cm off the all-time high from 2000 and they were expected to keep rising steadily throughout the day to about that level, he added.

River Severn levels are expected to remain high over the next few days due to "unsettled" weather, the EA said, adding it was "closely monitoring the situation".

At Prime Minister's Questions earlier, Boris Johnson was criticised for not visiting the areas affected by flooding.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the government "refuses to acknowledge the scale of the problem" accusing Mr Johnson of being a "part time prime minister" who is only "keen to pose for cameras during an election".

The prime minister said he was "very proud of the response the government has mounted" to the floods.

'Weeks of chaos'
Tim Page, BBC Radio Shropshire
It's more than a fortnight since Storm Ciara caused damage along the Ironbridge Gorge, and started the rise in river levels which has culminated in this week's flooding.

And it's the second time in a week that residents on The Wharfage, the street fronting on to the Severn in the centre of Ironbridge, have been told to leave their homes.

The sheer weight of the water behind the barriers has finally made its way through, bringing back memories of floods from the last century.

Telford and Wrekin Council had raised the idea of installing more permanent barriers and protecting larger stretches on both sides of the gorge.

But the logistics of doing so - and the challenges of matching the World Heritage Site's environment - would be significant.