Dozens of residents at a sheltered housing block have been evacuated today after a river burst its banks.

Firefighters were called out about 4am on Christmas Eve after the River Bure, a brook which runs through Bicester, surged to up to 10ft deep.

About 20 elderly people, who live in the ground-floor flats at Hanover Gardens in Manorsfield Road, were evacuated earlier in the morning to stay with friends or family.

A further 35 residents were expected to be evacuated during the day. They were either walked or carried to safety.

The nearby Causeway was also flooded.

Incident commander Rob MacDougall, of Oxfordshire Fire Service, said: “Basically because of the weather overnight the river has burst its banks.

“We have been here since 4am.

“The plan now is to get all residents out of the building. There is some power, they have heat and electricity.”

He said the water inside the buildings was “low level” between six and 12 inches.

A common room area, which included a laundry area was also flooded.

Mr MacDougall said at its peak four fire engines were at the scene with about 25 firefighters. He did not know how deep the water was.

Ian Macpherson, of Hudson Street, Bicester, was in constant contact with his mother Joyce Ricketts, 80, who was stranded in her top-floor flat with husband Denis.

He estimated the water could be 10ft deep. He said: “At the moment she can’t get out. She has got electricity and she’s got food.

“In all our years living in Bicester (the brook) has never flooded. It could be a coincidence that they have moved the river.”

The River Bure was diverted from one side of Manorsfield Road in 2010 to the other to make way for the new £70m town centre redevelopment Town councillor Richard Mould, who lives in nearby Hunt Close, said: “I think it was the sheer volume of water and it overwhelmed the culvert.

“It rose very quickly overnight. At 10pm I don’t suppose it was more than a couple of feet tops. At 5am when I looked out it was coming over the bank into Hanover Gardens.

“I have not seen it that height and I have lived here 25 years.”

Chris Reynolds and his partner Debbie Brown and son Lea, six, had popped in to drop a Christmas present off for his grandmother Peggy Ayris, 87.

He said: “We knew there was flooding here but we thought we’d be able to get through.

“She doesn’t know we can’t get through. I think she will be worried.”

Oxfordshire County Council’s Emergency Planning Team and Fire and Rescue service was working with housing provider Hanover to re-house people.

Emergency Planning Officer Bethan Morgan said: “Our priority is to make sure that people are safe and comfortable throughout the holiday period and to find the right solutions for all the residents.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said it was assisting at the scene and would try to establish what caused the flood.

The agency says it is working today with the county's fire and rescue, county council officials and staff at Cherwell District Council to tackle the flooding.

The organisation has also posted an image on its Twitter account illustrating the extent of the flooding in the town.

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Reader Brian Brown has also witnessed the scale of the flooding, and took this image of fire engines gathering to deal with the situation.


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