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Heavy rainfall blamed for Bridgwater river wall collapse

Heavy rainfall is believed to be the cause of a collapsed wall on the River Parrett close to the town centre in Bridgwater in Somerset.

The incident happened at 4.30pm last Friday and eye witness reports have suggested the stone wall cracked before sagging towards the river and the road behind subsiding. The collapse severed utilities in the area and as a result 19 houses have been evacuated and roads surrounding the area were closed immediately after the collapse. Some of the closed roads are now being reopened.

 “There was heavy rainfall recorded in the hours before the collapse on West Quay and it is thought that this may have pooled behind the structure causing a 40m section to move up to 5m off alignment,” said Environment Agency media relations manager Paul Gainey.

The stone blockwork wall has been described as “an historic structure which was added as a flood protection measure” but no details about the structure’s construction or maintenance schedule are currently available.

Somerset County Council, which is responsible for the roadway on West Quay, is working with Sedgemoor District Council and is currently carrying out an initial survey into the collapse. No one from either authority were available for comment as NCE went to press.

The EA has also commissioned Black & Veatch to carry out its own structural report. “The aim is to see the extent of the damage and assess the current stability of the subsided section. The section is in a fragile state and the collapse may also have compromised the surrounding sections of wall,” said Gainey. “We expect to get a clearer picture of the situation in the next few days.” 

Gainey said that he could not give a date when residents would be allowed back into their properties. “People were allowed back on Sunday to collect personal items but the collapse has severed services to the properties and there is a real risk of a further collapse,” he explained.

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