Bedfordshire flood warning: Stadium turned into emergency centre for evacuees

·3-min read

An athletics stadium is being used as an emergency assistance centre after widespread flood warnings in Bedfordshire.

In a statement, Bedford Borough Council warned of "significant levels of floodwaters to impact Bedford and other parts of the borough", and said that a COVID-safe centre had been set up at Bedford International Athletic Stadium for those forced to flee their homes.

Bromham Village Hall in the county is also being used as a centre for people who have to evacuate due to flooding but do not have another location to go to.

Bedfordshire Police and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue service have been working to encourage residents to evacuate their homes, with flood warnings put in place for areas surrounding the River Great Ouse.

On Christmas evening, the river broke its banks and water flooded on to bridges and roads surrounding it in the village of Turvey.

One resident, who lives nearby to the river, told Sky News: "We've lived on this road for 14 years and I've never known this road to be closed, so it's a first for me."

Down the road in the town of Bedford, the water is steadily rising. The water is expected to hit peak heights in the next few hours.

Due to the flooding, people have been permitted to go to others' homes, despite the Tier 4 coronavirus regulations currently in place.

Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson said: "The Environment Agency are expecting this to be the highest level of flooding seen in Bedford Borough in a number of years, and working with partners we are strongly encouraging people who are at risk of flooding and have been contacted to leave if they can do so safely.

"If your property is at risk of flooding and there is threat to life, please call 999 and ask for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue. If you need assistance, there is support and advice available via the council's floodline on 01234 718007.

"For this to strike over the Christmas period is really hard, especially after the changes to plans that so many of us have already had to adjust to. But this is a very serious situation - if you can and you've been advised to, please take action to keep yourselves and your families safe."

The council added that people should turn off their gas, water and electricity and move any valuables upstairs. "Only take what you need such as medication and any insurance documents," it said.

Superintendent Steve Ashton of Bedfordshire Police said the force visited more than 1,300 homes in the Bedford area around the River Great Ouse to suggest they evacuate.

"If you receive one of those notices last night you are in one of the those properties most at risk from this flood. We will encourage you to leave if it is safe to do so as soon as you are able to do so," he said.

"We appreciate the timing of this on Christmas Day is not great but the risk to you, your family and wellbeing is significant."

The flood warnings come after more than a thousand people were forced to flee the Billing Aquadrome holiday park in the neighbouring county of Northamptonshire on Christmas Eve when severe flood warnings were put in place for the River Nene.

There are two severe flood warnings in place in Northamptonshire, which means there is a danger to life, and 80 flood warnings are in place across England and Wales.