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York's Fight Against Flooding As Barrier Raised

Sky News logo Sky News 27/12/2015

Foss flood barrier Pic: @EnvAgencyYNE © Other Foss flood barrier Pic: @EnvAgencyYNE Thousands of homes are being evacuated in York, since the flood barrier protecting the town was lifted last night.

The Environment Agency said it was forced to lift the Foss flood barrier after water entered the building, putting pumps in danger of failing due to electrical problems.

If the barrier became stuck in the 'down' position, it would not have been able to discharge water into the River Ouse.

So the agency made the decision to lift it, warning residents in the city centre to move valuables to upper floors and prepare to leave their homes.

Overnight vulnerable people were moved from around 2,200 homes in the city, leaving residents of around 3,500 properties near the River Foss on standby to flee.

City of York Council set up a rest centre for residents at Archbishop Holgate School.

Most at risk are the city centre and the areas of Huntington, Tang Hall, Osbaldwick and Foss Islands.

Superintendent Phil Cain of Silver Command told Sky News that the Huntingdon Road area - about 3.5 miles out of town - is the worst hit with floodwater now "shoulder height".

He said that, as at 4.30am, authorities had knocked on the doors of more than 300 homes to encourage people to leave.

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Military personnel are expected to arrive in the city at 6am to help.

Six severe flood warnings - meaning a danger to life - are in place for the area.

The River Foss is a tributary of the River Ouse, the latter of which is already approaching record levels.

The typical range for the Ouse is between 0.05m and 1.9m, with the highest level recorded as 5.4m. As at 3am on Sunday, the river level was sitting at 4.61m.

The Foss barrier was built in a £3.34m project which started in 1987.

Among its successes was in November 2000, when the River Ouse reached its highest levels in centuries and the pumps had to run for 10 consecutive days.

In September 2012, river levels were just half a metre below that and the pumps ran for almost a week to save surrounding properties from flooding.

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