A "STRANDED" river steamer will be the focus of a dramatic training exercise for Hereford & Worcester Fire Brigade.

The waterway rescue, due to take place at Diglis Lock on the River Severn today, will reconstruct the scenario of a boating disaster.

With no access from above, the lock gates will be the only entrance to the stricken river steamer - creating the imaginary mouth of a tunnel.

And with a range of injured people to cope with, the training routine will allow fire crews to drill rescue techniques. The aim is to pretend a boat had become lodged underneath a bridge or within a canal tunnel.

The practice routine is designed to help the fire brigade deal with any major incident. Last year Hereford and Worcester brigade constructed the scenario of a possible train derailment.

"We try to reconstruct as many a major event as possible, to give fire fighters the experience and skills they need for each potential disaster," said Alec Mackie, spokesman for Hereford & Worcester Fire Brigade.

"There are lots of waterways across the two counties and with the amount of boats and pleasure cruisers on the rivers, we need to be ready in event of an accident."

"You only have to look at the lives lost after the Marchioness disaster on the Thames to see the disaster which could potentially happen."

The river steamer has been loaned for the day by the New Worcester Steamer Company, and the rescue planned with the help of British Waterways.

Diglis large lock will be closed to boaters for the duration of the exercise, but the adjacent small lock will remain open to boat traffic at 11am.