Historic bridge collapses in UK floods as Storm Frank brings more extreme weather

A bridge built in the early 18th century has collapsed into a river swollen by days of heavy rainfall in a town in northern England as the region braced for more extreme weather.

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Historic bridge collapses in flood-hit Britain

Two separate amateur videos capture the moment an 18th century stone bridge crumbles amid heavy flooding in Tadcaster, England.

Several houses near the bridge in the town of Tadcaster in North Yorkshire were evacuated before stones started falling from the structure into the river. The collapse touched off a gas leak, prompting authorities to cordon off the area.

The bridge over the Wharfe River was built about 1700, according to the Tadcaster town council website. It had been closed to traffic for days because of safety concerns. The floods are considered the worst in Britain in more than 60 years.

Meteorologists forecast the arrival of the Storm Frank, saying residents should expect further heavy rainfall.

Storms had already struck areas of northern England and parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and especially hard.


On Christmas Day vast parts of the country reported flooding, including the cities of York and Leeds, where water levels rose temporarily to as high as waist-deep in the streets.

Frank is the sixth major Atlantic storm to hit in recent weeks.

Torrential rain and gale force winds cutting power to thousands of homes and forcing some to evacuate flooded streets in the third major storm in a month.

The Environment Agency said Britain had faced an extraordinary period of severe weather and flooding in December, with consultants PwC warning that the latest deluge from Storm Frank could take total losses above £3 billion ($6 billion).

A Chinook helicopter was being used to deposit sandbags.

"The weather remains hugely challenging, with more rain threatening to cause further flooding in Cumbria and Yorkshire today and into New Year's Eve," said Craig Woolhouse at the Environment Agency.

Around 6700 properties were flooded in northern England in the last week as river levels reached all time highs, while three severe flood warnings remain in place, meaning there is a danger to life.

In Northern Ireland and the Republic, roads flooded, flights were delayed and thousands went without power while in Scotland, local media reports said people were being evacuated from their homes in the north east town of Ballater by dingy.

Consultancy KPMG has put the potential economic losses at more than £5 billion pounds, including the cost of flood defences.

"The storms this time have generated a far greater proportion of non-insured losses compared to the total economic damage," said Mohammad Khan, general insurance leader at PwC, in a statement.

"Many of the smaller and family-run businesses that have been impacted by Eva and Desmond will not have commercial insurance in place due to the impact of the recession and lower business volumes in recent years."

A government-backed scheme to make flood insurance affordable is due to launch in April. But the scheme, Flood Re, does not cover small businesses.

The storm is expected to cause major disruptions in Cumbria and southern and central Scotland, the Press Association reported, quoting Floods Minister Rory Stewart who warned there could be a "very bad situation" for residents already hit by floods.

Most of the Environment Agency's nine severe flood warnings were around York, a city of 200,000 which has been one of the worst affected after torrential rain caused two of its rivers, the Foss and Ouse, to burst their banks.

"People have barely had a break for 3½ weeks because this has been going continually since early December," Mr Stewart told BBC Radio 4's Today program.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had been visiting some of the worst-hit areas, but help has also arrived from a more surprising segment of society.

According to media reports, a group of Syrian refugees has been working in Littleborough, Greater Manchester, shovelling sand into sandbags to help avert more flooding.

"We saw the pictures on TV and wanted to help," Yasser al-Jassem, a 35-year-old teacher told the Guardian, adding that the people of Greater Manchester had been good to him and others in his group and they wanted to help in response.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Mr Jassem explained that he had used social media to find other Syrian refugees who wanted to help.

"I put out a call through WhatsApp and immediately had many other Syrian refugees join me," he explained. "It shows that we are very much interested in not only becoming a part of British society, but also contributing to it."

While Britain has largely been spared the brunt of Europe's refugee crisis thanks to its geographical location away from continental Europe, rising numbers of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa became a major controversy this year. Once there were calls to send the army into the refugee camp that had sprung around the French port of Calais – the same port that Mr Jassem had entered Britain through in the back of a truck.

Meanwhile, the Irish meteorological service issued warnings for wind and rain for counties on the Atlantic coast.

"Southerly winds associated with Storm Frank will reach mean speeds of 65 to 80km/h with gusts of 100 to 120km/h, strongest in coastal areas on Tuesday afternoon, evening and early night," Met Eireann said on its website.

Rainfall of four to seven centimetres was expected over the same period.

DPA, Reuters

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