Storm Aurore: Thames Barrier closed to protect London from potential flooding

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The Thames Barrier, pictured here during its annual test closure last month, has been closed to protect London from flooding. (PA)

Torrential downpours that hit parts of the country overnight has prompted the closure of the Thames Barrier in an effort to protect London from floods.

Heavy rain fell on Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday as Storm Aurore moved in from France, prompting the Environment Agency to issue 51 flood warnings.

The Environment Agency (EA) said the Thames Barrier has now been closed until 6pm tonight to protect the capital.

The EA said the move will protect the capital “from a high tide as a result of low pressure and northerly winds coinciding with spring tides”.

Cars drive through flood water on a road in Lingfield, Surrey, after southern England was hit overnight by heavy rain and strong winds from Storm Aurore. (PA(

Flooded fields near Lingfield in Surrey following a night of torrential rain. (PA)

A spokesman said: “While the barrier will help to protect London from tidal flooding, there are also risks from coastal flooding along the east coast on Thursday and Friday.

Heavy rain also means that there is a separate but concurrent risk of river flooding across the south of England.”

Emergency services said they had received reports of flooding after southern England was hit by Aurore on Wednesday night.

The warnings have been put in place along the east and south coasts of England, with residents told to “act now” and move vehicles to a higher land level, put important items upstairs and erect property protection barriers.

The wet weather came as a low-pressure system brought up to 50mm of rain and 45mph gusts.

Essex Fire Service said it had received more than 120 calls up until 2.30am on Thursday regarding flood-related incidents.

A 4×4 drives through flood water on a road in Lingfield, Surrey, on Thursday morning. (PA)

A Met Office yellow weather warning was in place until 3am on Thursday.

Its forecast said Thursday would be “a much colder day with a band of rain across central and south-western parts clearing south-east in the morning”.

It said showers would then mainly affect western and northern areas, and they could turn wintry over some northern hills.

Gales are forecast near North Sea coasts.

A woman walks across the Millennium bridge in London on Wednesday evening as rain started to lash the capital. (PA)

Thursday night will see “showers for northern and western areas, whilst eastern and southern areas will have fewer showers and more in the way of clear spells, remaining breezy”, the Met Office added.

The Thames Barrier, that consists of 10 gates, has been closed 200 times for flood defence purposes since 1982

During the winter of 2013/14 the Thames Barrier, that costs around £8m a year to maintain and operate, closed 50 times – its busiest flood season ever.

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