- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

BUSCOT, England — Gasoline-powered pumps roared into action yesterday as stunned Britons tried to dry out their houses after the worst flooding in more than a half-century.

Downstream from the worst-hit areas, residents nervously watched river levels, fearing the runoff from the floods could inundate new areas of western England.

One man drowned yesterday after jumping into a rain-swollen river. A woman trapped in her home in the town of Tewkesbury lost twins when she went into labor prematurely and paramedics could not reach her by land.

Two Royal Air Force helicopters were sent and the babies and mother were taken to a hospital, where the twins died — premature at 21 weeks, police said.

Police in Tewkesbury were looking for a 19-year-old man who disappeared after leaving a pub Saturday as flooding increased.

Although sunshine helped shrink water levels yesterday, more rain was expected in the next few days. Forecasters, however, said additional flooding wasn’t expected.

Queen Elizabeth II sent a message of support to flooded areas, saying she was “shocked and deeply concerned” by the damage.

In Bedford, north of London, a man died after jumping into the River Great Ouse. Witnesses saw him swim to the middle of the river before going under. He was pulled from the water by rescuers but pronounced dead at a hospital.

About 350,000 people in the Gloucestershire region, the most severely affected, remained without drinking water yesterday, relying on hundreds of thousands of gallons brought in by emergency workers in bottles or in tankers. Many may have to wait a week or more for the floodwaters to recede enough to allow pumping stations to operate.

The Thames was expected to crest in Pangbourne, Purley and Reading areas by late yesterday to early today. Emergency officials, however, said they expected the levels to be lower than the worst-affected areas.

London, farther down the Thames, appeared unlikely to flood. East of London, the Thames Barrier, the world’s largest moveable flood defense, can be closed to seal off the upper river from tidal flows that could cause a swollen river to overrun its banks.