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Thames Barrier works overtime in record rainfall

LONDON'S THAMES Barrier was closed an unprecedented 14 times in the first week of the New Year, according to the UK's Environment Agency.

On average it is closed just three times a year. But record rainfall in the Thames catchment for that week created the highest risk of flooding in the capital for 50 years, an Agency spokesman said.

Peak flows into the River Thames were up to 475m 3/second - three times the average winter flow, and well above those seen in 2000.

Flows in the Thames' tributaries are normally arrested by each incoming tide. However, over New Year there was so much water in the rivers that incoming high tides would have led to them bursting their banks, bringing flooding and transport chaos across London.

By closing the Barrier and holding back the tide, tributaries feeding into the Thames were able to drain continuously, averting disaster.

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