River Thames breaches its banks near London

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

Residents and British troops piled up sandbags to protect properties, but the river overwhelmed defenses in several places, leaving areas including the center of the village of Datchet underwater.

The Environment Agency has issued 14 severe flood warnings — meaning there's a danger to life — along the Thames east of Windsor, about 20 miles from London.

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

There were no flood alerts for the part of the river that flows through London. That stretch is protected by the Thames Barrier, a series of giant metal gates downstream of central London that can be closed against tidal 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 Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-led government facing criticism for allegedly failing to dredge rivers and take other preventive measures.

River Thames breaches its banks near London 02/10/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 12:15am]

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