River Thames breaches its banks near London

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River Thames breaches its banks near London
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River Thames breaches its banks near London
A woman sits in a boat pushed by her companions through a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. 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 defences Monday, leaving areas including the centre of the village of Datchet underwater. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
A woman sits in a boat pushed by her companions through a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. 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 defences Monday, leaving areas including the centre of the village of Datchet underwater. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Women wade through a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. 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 defences Monday, leaving areas including the centre of the village of Datchet underwater. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
People collect sandbags from a truck on a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. 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 defences Monday, leaving areas including the centre of the village of Datchet underwater. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
People loads their boats with sandbags on a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. 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 defences Monday, leaving areas including the centre of the village of Datchet underwater. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
People take pictures backdropped by the Palace of Westminster from the south bank of the River Thames in London, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A car makes its away though rising water from the River Thames in Shepperton, London, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Britain's weather forecasters are warning of more rain over the coming days, with strong winds hammering coastal regions. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
A house surrounded by the rising waters of the River Thames has sandbags up against its glass doors in Shepperton, London, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Britain's weather forecasters are warning of more rain over the coming days, with strong winds hammering coastal regions.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
A car makes its away though rising water from the River Thames in Shepperton, London, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Britain's weather forecasters are warning of more rain over the coming days, with strong winds hammering coastal regions. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
A house surrounded by the rising waters of the River Thames has sandbags up against its doors in Shepperton, London, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Britain's weather forecasters are warning of more rain over the coming days, with strong winds hammering coastal regions.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
A car makes its away though rising water from the River Thames in Shepperton, London, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Britain's weather forecasters are warning of more rain over the coming days, with strong winds hammering coastal regions. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
A house surrounded by the rising waters of the River Thames, in Shepperton, Middlesex, as the river rose and lapped over its banks to threaten river side properties, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Britain's weather forecasters are warning of more rain over the coming days, with strong winds hammering coastal regions. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Children react in a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. 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 defences Monday, leaving areas including the centre of the village of Datchet underwater. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
A woman wades through a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. 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 defences Monday, leaving areas including the centre of the village of Datchet underwater. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
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LONDON (AP) - The River Thames has burst its banks after reaching its highest level in years, flooding riverside towns upstream of London.

Residents and British troops piled up sandbags to protect properties from the latest bout of flooding, but the river overwhelmed their defenses in several places 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 (32 kilometers) from London.

Its chief executive, Paul Leinster, said "extreme weather will continue to threaten communities this week" with more Thames flooding expected Tuesday.

There were no flood alerts for the part of the river that flows through London. That stretch is protected by the Thames Barrier, a series of giant metal gates downstream of central London that can be closed against tidal surges. By holding back the tide, the barrier also creates more space in the river for excess water from upstream to flow down to the sea.

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.

Cameron denied the government had been slow to respond.

"We have been dealing with it from the very moment it started," he said. "Where money was needed, we provided more money. Where military was needed, I made sure the military was deployed."


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