UPDATE: More than 100 residents evacuated as Dorset braces itself for more severe weather (From Bournemouth Echo)
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UPDATE: More than 100 residents evacuated as Dorset braces itself for more severe weather
MAJOR disruption hit Dorset on Christmas Day as more than 100 residents were evacuated from homes in Bournemouth and Christchurch due to rising river levels.
The River Stour has burst its banks at Iford and water levels were so high the arches of the bridge disappeared from view.
The major incident has been described as a "1-in-100 years event" in some areas.
Residents of Iford Bridge Home Park were rescused from their homes by boat around 3am on Christmas Day following a severe flood warning from the Environment Agency.
Around 15 residents at Beaulieu Gardens Home Park in Christchurch were also evacuated at 5.30am.
Video from Lyn Herbert
The situation is being monitored from a command centre in Poole with officers from the council, police and fire service as well as the Environment Agency on the scene.
One officer from Bournemouth Council said it is likely all the homes at Iford Bridge Home Park have been affected in some way by the flooding.
However, they said they have not been able to get onto the site to assess the damage yet.
High tide was due around 9am on Christmas Day morning but the levels will take four or five hours to recede.
Tony Allen, who lives in Water Lane, just metres from the Iford Bridge park said: "I've lived here for 13 years and never seen it this bad before.
"The first thing we saw was looking out the window and seeing the fire brigade on a rubber boat coming up the lane.
Picture from Simon Rowley
"We've seen it flooded before but never this bad.
"I just feel for the people who live there."
And Terry Hughes, 84, who has lived next to Iford Bridge pub for 58 years, said: "I've seen it as bad as this before but not for a long time.
"Since the last big flood we had, they've put in a lot of flood barriers. But it has to go somewhere.
"The last time the caravans flooded like this was in the 70s I think.
"Christchurch would have to flood before we got it on our doorstep though."
Many of the 100 people sent to Boscombe have been collected by friends and family but those more vulnerable residents affected by the evacuation will be put in bed and breakfast accommodation overnight, say the council.
Wessex 4x4 Response helped rescuers with the evacuation at Iford and Christchurch.
The evacuation comes as The Met Office issued another yellow weather warning for heavy rain from 7am today until 6am tomorrow.
A spokesperson for the Met Office said:"Showers will move inland from the English Channel at times today, some being heavy with a risk of hail and thunder.
"Most of the showers will move through fairly quickly giving no more than 2 to 5 mm of rain, but there is the possibility that they will become slow moving in narrow lines through the evening and into the early hours of Thursday, leading to a risk of 20 mm of rain falling very locally within 3 hours, mainly near English Channel coasts."
Picture from Linda Edwards
Bournemouth Council is also on the scene assisting with the evacuation of Iford Bridge Park Homes, Bournemouth.
"We have been working through the night with partner agencies, including the Environment Agency, Police and Fire, as well as mobilising voluntary sector colleagues, in readiness for any required evacuation", a spokesperson said.
Kim Drake, director for Social Care at Bournemouth Council said: "The Council has set up an emergency rest centre at Boscombe Day Centre to make those evacuated warm and comfortable.
"Our staff are doing all they can to make the rest centre welcoming, with help from the WRVS and Red Cross. We have plentiful blankets and food available, but of course understand that this is very much not the Christmas morning that the residents were hoping for."
She added: "We are doing all that we can to contact people's relatives and try to get those evacuated to familiar environments so that they can enjoy a Christmas Day with family wherever possible."
Picture from Linda Edwards
Southbourne-based catering company Forerunner, has also laid on a Christmas dinner for all the residents.
Declan O'Toole, owner of the company said he was called by Bournemouth Council's social services department at 8am this morning, to see if they could lay on some food.
Along with chef Wilf Beckitt, the company have sent over a full Christmas dinner including the last of their Christmas pudding and some replacement cake for those at the Boscombe centre.
"We're the only company in the area, which operates 365 days of the year and we are more than happy to help, free of charge.
"They asked if we had enough, as we also cater the Salvation Army lunch, and I said of course we have.
"It's Christmas and we are more than happy to help people out. We've heard they are very hungry after their ordeal last night."
Picture from Simon Rowley
A spokesperson for Dorset Police said the force together with partner agencies have been monitoring the river levels of the River Stour closely, carrying out continual assessments and identifying the areas most at risk over the past 24 hours.
A spokesperson for Dorset Police said: "This is a full multi-agency operation.
"Occupants of properties at risk of flooding who have concerns or are unsure what to do should contact the Environment Agency on 0845 988 1188, visit their website http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk or call the emergency services on 999 if urgent.
"All agencies are working together on this operation and will continue throughout Christmas Day."
A spokesperson for Dorset County Council said: “Council staff have been working through the night to support local people affected by the recent flooding. In some areas this has been classed as a 1 in 100 years event and the effects have been extremely serious for some.
"One of our main roles has been to set up a rest centre for caravan park residents in East Dorset who've been evacuated.
"We have been working with Christchurch and East Dorset councils to temporarily house those affected and will continue to support throughout Christmas Day and in the coming days.
"Highways teams have also been busy helping to keep our road network as clear as possible."
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