Bishop of Oxford Visits Flood Victims

|PIC1|The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, was out and about in west Oxford yesterday bringing comfort and encouragement to those caught up in the devastating floods.

Kitted up in wellies and a raincoat, Bishop Pritchard waded along the flooded Botley Road where he spoke to householders and members of the emergency services.

The road remains under several inches of water and is a no-go area for traffic. Some residents have been evacuated to alternative accommodation, including the Kassam Stadium.

Bishop Pritchard also paid a visit to St Fridewide's Church where sandbags have so far managed to keep the encroaching waters outside, although the floors have already been cleared in case the heavy rains overcome the sandbags.

Earlier in the week, the Bishop expressed his sympathy to evacuees sheltered at the Kassam Stadium.

He said: "My deepest sympathy extends to everyone in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire who is caught up in these very difficult circumstances."

He also assured residents in the Diocese of Oxford that the church was there to help them in the present crisis.

"All our local churches are there to help. We have 'a branch in every High Street' with people ready to offer practical help, from temporary accommodation, food, clothes and hot drinks, to longer-term emotional support and community welfare," he said.

In the Diocese of Worcester, Bishop Peter Selby made a similar pledge to help victims of the flood with their immediate needs as well as in the long-term recovery process: "I know that many members of the clergy and their congregations have been offering all sorts of practical help throughout the weekend and I know this will continue for as long as it's needed."

The Salvation Army, meanwhile, has been spearheading relief efforts across the affected areas. In Tewkesbury, one of the worst-hit areas, the Salvation Army hall has turned into emergency accommodation for stranded travellers or evacuated residents.

Open 24 hours a day since the waters engulfed the town in Gloucestershire, the hall is providing food, drinks, a place to rest and sleep, and much-needed comfort to flood victims.

Said Michelle Harris, coordinator of The Salvation Army's relief efforts in Tewkesbury: "The situation is dire, but the community really is pulling together with a fantastic spirit."