Storm Bella: Queen Elizabeth II Bridge closes and UK rivers swell to record levels

Further flooding and disruption expected after Bedfordshire residents evacuate homes

With Storm Bella buffeting the UK overnight, a more appropriate moniker could have been Storm Belladonna – or deadly nightshade, as the poisonous plant is more commonly known.

The tempest forced the closure of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in Kent, with gale-force winds jeopardising the safe passage of vehicles.

In Cambridgeshire, the towns of Eaton Socon, St Neots and Little Paxton were experiencing their highest-recorded river levels – and flooding was beginning to affect properties.

Ominously, the local district council was predicting levels would continue to rise until late afternoon the next day.

The flood warnings follow days of wet weather, where rivers have been swelling throughout the UK.

Graham Windram's houseboat washed on to the banks of the Great Ouse river in Great Barford on Saturday.

Mr Windram had to secure his home and "abandon ship" out of precaution, he told British broadcaster Sky News.

In Bedford, residents put up flood defences and sandbags to keep rising river waters at bay well into the night, said Jan Schofield, who lives on The Embankment besides the river.

Both Great Barford and Bedford are under Tier 4, the highest level of coronavirus restrictions in England, but residents were allowed to leave their homes to seek shelter and safety.

"This hasn't yet suddenly allow Covid to disappear," Philip Simpkins, chief executive of Bedford Borough Council, told Sky News.

He urged people not to be “heroic,” and to follow Covid safety guidelines.

Flood warnings were put in place in Wales, too, where on Saturday winds of 133kph were recorded.