Thames Barrier: the coastal defence is vital in stopping flooding in central London Shutterstock / Steve Meese
The Thames Barrier was closed today as strong winds and a coastal surge put London at risk of flooding.
The coastal defence was shut for just the 177th time in its history at 11.30am and will be reopened at 4.30pm this afternoon.
The Environment Agency said the 520m barrier was being shut during high tide as part of its “network of defences” – designed to protect over 550,000 properties.
It comes after thousands of people were evacuated from homes in coastal towns and villages in Essex and Suffolk overnight on Friday amid severe flood warnings, although the impact was not as serious as feared.
Steve East, Engineering Manager at the Thames Barrier said: “We are closing the barrier to protect London from the threat of flooding due to high water levels around the time of high tides from the sea.”
The barrier, completed in 1984, takes one and a half hours to close in total – with each individual gate taking 15 minutes.
Stretching across the Thames from Charlton to Silverton in Newham, it protects 125 square km of central London from flooding and is opened on average fewer than 10 times a year. It costs around £8 million a year to maintain and operate.
The Environment Agency is advising people that practical advice on preparing for flooding can be found on GOV.UK or by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188.
Live updates are also sent out from its Twitter account at @EnvAgencySE and using the hashtag #floodaware
The Met Office also warned Londoners will continue to face freezing temperatures on Saturday amid a severe weather warning for ice, following a flurry of snowfall at the end of the week.
On Friday night a cargo ship sank off the Kent coast and a major rescue operation was carried out in stormy conditions in order to save the seven people on board.
Courtesy of standard.co.uk