Image: Oxford flooding
Sang Tan  /  AP
Crossing this flooded path in Oxford, England, on Wednesday was no easy task for the man carrying a woman on his shoulders.
updated 7/26/2007 8:06:36 PM ET 2007-07-27T00:06:36

River levels stabilized Thursday across England, allowing residents of flooded areas to survey the damage and begin the cleanup, as hundreds of thousands of people remained without clean water.

A father and his son died while cleaning a flooded rugby club office in the town of Tewkesbury. The fire and rescue service for the Gloucestershire region said they might have been overcome by fumes from a gas-powered pump.

“They wanted to get it cleaned out and for the club to get going again,” said club member Les Adams.

Tewkesbury, a historic market town famed for its abbey about 90 miles northwest of London, was one of the communities most severely flooded by torrential rains that began last week.

In Gloucestershire, some 350,000 people were without clean running water as workers labored to clean up flood damage that overwhelmed a pumping station and water mains. The regional water service was trying to restore service to about 10,000 households, but the water would be usable only for bathing and flushing toilets.

To the east, water levels started to fall in Oxford, though they remained high. Farther down the River Thames, fears of flooding eased as water levels stabilized.

Windsor, where Queen Elizabeth II’s residence at Windsor Castle stands high above the Thames, would likely avoid flooding because of substantial flood defenses. London was also expected to escape flooding.

350,000 lack clean water
Britain has had one of its wettest summers on record — a sharp contrast to last summer, which was one of its driest and hottest. Drier weather was expected for Friday and Saturday across much of England.

Alan Tripp, a west Oxford resident, was surveying the flood damage. He celebrated his 50th birthday Wednesday, as the waters rushed into the ground floor of his house.

“I could have done with a better present than this,” he said.

Oxford University escaped damage. Most of the university’s buildings are perched above swollen waterways that forced nearly 100 residents from their homes earlier this week.

In all, about 350,000 people lacked clean water after flooding, which began last week.

Government officials said they would consider suspending tax collection for people affected by the flooding. Financial Secretary Jane Kennedy said the customs and revenue service would not charge late penalties.

'Good community spirit'
The queen made a donation to the British Red Cross’ National Floods Appeal, Buckingham Palace said, but did not reveal the amount. Prince Charles, heir to the throne, was to visit flood-hit areas in Gloucestershire on Friday.

In Purley-on-Thames, about 50 miles west of London, homeowner Sarah Hopkins was reassembling her home, after moving furniture and valuables upstairs.

“We took stuff up, and emptied the dining room — photos, and any expensive items that couldn’t be replaced,” she said. Hopkins, who lives within 200 feet of the Thames, said the flooding they braced for never developed, to everyone’s relief.

“Everyone’s been going to see the river every hour,” she said. “There’s been good community spirit.”

Along with the father and son who were reported dead Thursday, a man drowned in Bedford after jumping into the swollen River Great Ouse.

A Tewkesbury woman’s premature twins died this week when paramedics could not reach her by road after she called to say she had gone into labor. A 19-year-old Tewkesbury man disappeared early Saturday after he left a bar in the deluged town.

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