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United Kingdom

Thames reaches record levels as Britain battles fresh floods

British authorities have spent the weekend battling widespread flooding in the south and west. Now, several checkpoints on the river Thames in London are at record levels, although rainfall is set to finally subside.

Counties in the southwest of England, like Cornwall, Somerset and Devon, were among the hardest hit by heavy storms in Britain, Ireland and northwestern France over the weekend.

Rail connections to Cornwall still faced severe disruptions on Monday, after a 24-hour period when no services were running at all. Low-cost domestic airline Flybe pledged to double its weekday flights from Newquay in Cornwall to London in a bid to alleviate problems.

Although London and its surrounding area was largely spared the worst of the weekend's floods, the river Thames was hitting record levels at several points on Monday morning. Authorities issued severe flood warnings for 16 areas on Monday, mainly for regions close to the British capital.

Network Rail representatives said the Thames' levels were putting other key commuter routes to the southwest of the country at risk. Military personnel from the army and navy were deployed in strategic areas along the Thames overnight, erecting makeshift flood defenses.

Criticism of relief efforts

Prime Minister David Cameron was scheduled to visit the southwest for the second time in four days to survey the damage.

Forecasters said that Monday was likely to be the driest day of the week, although river levels were set to continue rising in places as previous rainfall flowed downstream.

Britain endured the wettest January ever recorded this year; some parts of the country have been flooded for more than a month.

Amid public dissatisfaction with government disaster management, a member of Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet and the Environment Agency have become embroiled in a row over who was to blame.

msh/ipj (dpa, Reuters)