FAMILIES are being 'strongly' urged by cops to leave their homes immediately on Christmas Day due to a risk of flooding.
Anyone living near the River Great Ouse in North Bedfordshire has been told to find alternative accommodation or evacuate to local emergency centres.
Bedfordshire Police said the request "overrides" any Covid regulations currently in place.
Bedford Borough Council warned of “significant levels of floodwater expected to impact Bedford and other parts of the borough".
The council has set up Covid-safe emergency centres at Bedford International Athletic Stadium and Bromham Village Hall in Bromham.
These have been prepared for those told to evacuate due to flooding – but do not have another location to go to at this time.
“If you have been contacted and advised to leave your home due to the threat of flooding, and you can do so safely, emergency services and the local authority are strongly encouraging you to do so,” the council said tonight.
Because of the flood threat, residents ordered to evacuate by officials "are permitted to go to other people’s homes, despite the Tier Four Covid-19 regulations currently in place," the council said.
Before evacuating, be sure to turn off gas, water and electricity and move any valuables upstairs, it added.
Only take what you need such as medication and any insurance documents.
Cops have "strongly urged" residents living near the River Great Ouse in north Beds to seek alternative accommodation due to fears of flooding on Friday night.
Superintendent Steve Ashdown, who is leading the response, said officers have already visited just over 1,300 homes in the area to order their evacuation.
He said: "The river is currently at heightened levels and we're predicting a significant flooding event by 8pm this evening.
"If you received one of those notices last night, you are in one of those properties that are most at risk from this flood.
"We would encourage you to leave if it is safe for you to do so, as soon as you are able to do so.
"Appreciate the timing of this at Christmas Day is not great, but the risk to you and your family and wellbeing is significant."
He asked residents able to leave their homes to do so in a "Covid-safe way" if possible, recommending they go to one single location and stay there until it is safe to return in the coming days.
Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “The Environment Agency are expecting this to be the highest level of flooding seen in Bedford Borough in a number of years.
"Working with partners we are strongly encouraging people who are at risk of flooding and have been contacted to leave if they can do so safely.
“If your property is at risk of flooding and there is threat to life, please call 999 and ask for Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue.
“If you need assistance, there is support and advice available via the council’s floodline on 01234 718007.
“For this to strike over the Christmas period is really hard, especially after the changes to plans that so many of us have already had to adjust to.
"But this is a very serious situation – if you can and you’ve been advised to, please take action to keep yourselves and your families safe.”
The action comes one day after Beds Fire and Rescue shared video of water gushing along roads, with the service tweeting: “We’ve been dealing with floods across Bedfordshire through the night which has largely hit north of Bedford."
"Oncoming vehicles remember, please don’t drive through floods."
The firefighters were hailed as 'heroes' after they rescued nine people and three dogs from swamped Harrold in Beds.
Charity Midshires Search and Rescue tweeted that its team is "currently on standby" to help emergency and council services "with the current flooding alert.
"Some specialist resources have already deployed as liaison."
After attending flooding in Riseley, Beds, where the high street was swamped, the team warned: "Please be water aware and stay away from flood water.
"It's fast-moving, hides serious dangers and poses a real risk to life if not treated correctly."
Beds and Cambs 4X4 Response said on Facebook that its team is "currently deployed in Bedford to assist with logistics with regard to ongoing floods."
Two severe flood – 'danger to life' – warnings were issued earlier by the EA for Bedfordshire, covering the Cogenhoe Mill caravan site and River Nene at Billing Aquadrome, plus nearby business parks.
Across England, a total of 85 flood warnings and 110 flood alerts, as well as the two severe flood warnings, remained in force at 4pm on Christmas Day as huge amounts of water flowed through river catchments.
STORM BELLA TO SMASH UK
Storm Bella is set to hit the UK tomorrow bringing further downpours and winds of up to 70mph in exposed coastal locations, according to the Met Office.
Severe flooding in Norfolk and Suffolk has already ruined Christmas for families who were forced to evacuate their homes with their unopened presents.
Dramatic footage showed an elderly couple being rescued from a submerged car after being trapped underwater for two hours.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said it had received more than 300 calls about flooding since Wednesday afternoon.
Some areas received a month of rainfall in 24 hours.
The rivers Severn and Avon rose and burst their banks, causing danger-to-life flooding across western and southern parts of the country.
Emergency services worked through the night to rescue more than 1,000 people from the flooding at Billing Aquadrome holiday park in Northamptonshire.
Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had handled more than 250 flood calls, with several properties affected and multiple people rescued from stranded vehicles.
It comes as Britain had its first White Christmas in three years today as snow fell in Suffolk and Humberside in the early hours of the morning.
Flood warnings for low lying areas close to River Great Ouse
Flooding is expected – immediate action required in Beds, says the Environment Agency
The EA says tonight that river levels are rising at the Bedford river gauge as a result of heavy rainfall.
"Consequently, flooding (of property) is imminent.
"We expect flooding to affect Marina Court, the brewery on Havelock Street, Duckmill Lane, Longholme Boating Lake, Priory Marina, the hotel on Cardington Road and Castle Mill in Bedford."
The agency adds: "Please move possessions and valuables off the ground or to safety and follow advice from emergency services.
"Call 999 if in immediate danger.
"Property owners with property level resilience are advised to install it now."
Further light rainfall is forecast over the next 24 hours.
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