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Thames Barrier

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The Thames Barrier is a flood defence mechanism that protects London from tidal floods. It can shut of the river here within 30 minutes in the event of a dangerous tidal surge.

The barrier was built to prevent a repeat of the devastation caused in 1953, when high tides and a storm combined to create a surge of 3.2 meters that killed 307 people and left parts of the U.K. under water.


The Thames barrier was originally planned in 1972, finished 10 years later in 1982 and officially opened by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II on 8 May 1984.

4,000 men and women were engaged in the building work, which cost nearly 500 million pounds.

The barrier is built across a 520 metre ( 1716 feet) wide stretch of the river and divides the river into six navigable and four smaller non-navigable channels between nine large concrete piers. The piers are founded on solid chalk, over 50 feet below the level of the river.

The gaps between the gates are as wide as Tower Bridge to allow boats to pass through.

The four largest steel gates are 200 feet wide and weigh 1500 tonnes each.


So, how many times has the floodbarrier been raised to protect London from flooding since it opened in 1982?

Number of closures 1983 - 2007
source: Environment Agency

1983    1
1984    0
1985    1
1986    0
1987    1
1988    2
1989    0
1990    6
1991    0
1992    1
1993    9
1994    1
1995    3
1996    4
1997    1
1998    3
1999    6
2000    10
2001    15
2002    4
2003    19
2004    2
2005    5
2006    1
2007    8


A HIGH tide and tidal surge led to the Thames Barrier being closed on March 21 2008. The 108th time that the barrier had to be closed since it became operational in 1982

Start of Voyage down the Thames Contents Page Introduction
Facts about the Thames Flooding Thames Basin
Pollution Erosion Tributaries
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I teach computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.