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The persistent heavy rain in southern England is causing very strong and fast flows in the Thames west of the capital. The abnormally high volumes of water flowing off the land has resulted in flows on the tidal Thames between Teddington and central London many times greater than normal.
This very strong ‘fluvial flow’ – up to four times stronger than normal - has led to a number of accidents involving man-powered vessels. In January there were 20 rescues of which four were capsized rowing boats. So far fifteen rowers have been pulled from the water.
In these incidents, river users have been caught by the severe strength of flow and swept onto moorings and piers. In one case, nine rowers had to be rescued when they were swept under moorings and their boat broken by the strength of the River. In another incident the coaching launch also foundered.
The Port of London Authority (PLA) which oversees safety on the tidal Thames has issued formal safety warnings to all recreational craft users and has also written directly to schools, colleges and universities. A particular concern is over young and novice crews attempting to row during these fast river flows.
The PLA has also introduced a new web-based safety indicator system. The ‘Ebb Tide Flag Warning’ system alerts rowers, canoeists, and other small recreational vessels of conditions on the river. This system is mainly for when the ebb tide and fluvial flows combine to make river conditions very perilous.
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