A MASSIVE clear-up operation was underway in the centre of Tenbury Wells as the town once again came to terms with the devastation of flash flooding.

Poor drainage has been blamed for the flooding after 15mm (0.59in) of rain fell in an hour during a freak storm that hit the county on Tuesday afternoon.

As water levels reached 3ft (90cm) in some parts of the town, roads were closed, shops and homes flooded while part of the town's recently reopened public toilets in Market Street collapsed.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service carried out about 12 rescue operations by boat.

The flooding came less than three weeks after the River Teme broke its banks causing severe floods.

Tenbury Tourism Group chairman Chris Dell said: "People are cross this time. Last time it was the river and you can't blame that. This time the water couldn't get into the brook and because the drains didn't work there's a number of people who have got major structural damage. The whole thing is a complete mess, far more than last time."

Mr Dell said the town's drainage was regularly talked about at town council meetings but nothing had been done.

"The damage here is actually quite serious and people say this could have all been prevented," he said.

Tenbury Wells Mayor Phil Grove said a 30ft (9 metre) stretch of wall had collapsed and fallen into the Kyre Brook while up to 4ft (1.2 metre) of mud bank beneath the adjoining toilet block had collapsed and slipped into the water, leaving the building unsafe.

Tenbury's toilets were only reopened at the beginning of the month. They were closed along with facilities in Upton-upon-Severn and Malvern as part of a cost-cutting exercise until the newly elected Malvern Hills District Council reversed the decision and spent £33,650 refurbishing them.

Mr Grove said: "We won't know until we have the building survey reports but it doesn't look good for the toilets and they might have to be demolished in the near future."

Just weeks after their businesses were closed, many traders in Market Street found themselves without electricity and once again mopping up.

Meryl Hemingway, who owns County Flowers said: "The rain came down the road like a river. It came very, very fast and there was nothing we could do. We tried to put some sand bags down, but it just came in over the top."

Anne Griffiths, who owns The Embroidery Shop, added: "It's so demoralising."

Margaret Palmer, who owns The Pet Shop, said sandbags put down to try and stop the water were thrown 15ft when waves hit the shop, damaging £1,000 of stock.

"I'd just turned off the humidifyer because we were flooded two weeks ago and as I did so a fire engine came past and the door just flew open. We didn't have a chance."

Phil Gibbs, of the butchers at The Clockhouse, said: "The water came through like a river and went straight down to the cellar."

Fire brigade spokesman Alec Mackie said: "This was the freakest of all storms, and certainly the worst to hit that area for a long time."

Meanwhile, a campaign to encourage more people to visit tourist attractions across the region is being launched at the meeting of Tourism West Midlands - the strategic body for tourism in our region - at RAF Cosford today (19).

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