FLOODED out Oxford council tenants could be back in their flats by Christmas, according to the team behind the clean-up operation.

More than 200 properties in the city were affected by flooding, among them 26 council homes in Bullstake Close, West Oxford.

This week, residents and Oxford City Homes staff began the clean-up that is set to take months to complete.

At its height, the flood water was two feet deep inside the flats. Ruined carpets, beds, wardrobes, fridges, washing machines and bags of belongings are now piled high in the car park.

Oxford City's empty homes manager Martyn Mumford is heading the operation.

He was part of the team that restored the 14 flooded council homes in Normandy Crescent, Cowley, earlier this year - but he said the job they now faced was much bigger.

He said: "We've got to get the carpets out, the furniture out, all the electrical checks done, then get the dehumidifiers in. But we have to work around loss adjusters."

The industrial dehumidifiers, which had to be shipped in from abroad because of UK demand, will run 24 hours a day and it is not known how long it will take to dry out the homes.

Kitchen units, flooring, doors, skirting boards and plaster will all need to be replaced in many of the flats.

Mr Mumford said: "It's the drying out part that's difficult. After that, there's 12 weeks of work before we think people will be back in."

He said he hoped residents would be able to return by Christmas.

But Mr Mumford said residents, who are being briefed at regular meetings, were pulling together.

He said: "The residents have been really, really great. Places like this prove there is a sense of community."

He said residents in first floor flats had been checking on neighbours and making tea and cakes for council staff.

Ann Jackson, who has lived in one of the first floor flats for 12 years, said it was the third time the block had flooded. She said: "This is the worst time but everybody is OK, everybody is helping everyone else. It was horrible on the Sunday morning."