Residents wearing homemade waders evacuate their home in Wraybury, Berkshire, on Feb. 10, 2014. Britain's environmental agency has some 14 severe flood warnings in place along the River Thames, as continued rain sees water levels along some stretches of the river reaching record levels. (Ben Stansall / Getty Images)
London — The River Thames has burst its banks after reaching its highest level in years, flooding riverside towns upstream of London.
Residents and British troops had piled up sandbags in a bid to protect properties from the latest bout of flooding to hit Britain. But the floods overwhelmed their defenses Monday, leaving areas including the center of the village of Datchet underwater.
The Environment Agency has issued 14 severe flood warnings — meaning there’s a danger to life — along the Thames east of Windsor, about 20 miles from London.
Its chief executive, Paul Leinster, said “extreme weather will continue to threaten communities this week” with more Thames flooding expected Tuesday.
England has had its wettest January since 1766. Its southwest coast has been battered repeatedly by storms and a large area of the low-lying Somerset Levels in the southwest has been under water for more than a month.
The disaster has sparked a political storm, with the Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led government facing criticism from many residents for allegedly failing to dredge rivers and take other flood-prevention measures. Both Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited flood-hit areas Monday as the government struggled to take charge of the flooding crisis.