NERVOUS homeowners were on tenterhooks as pumps failed following a power cut as flood waters rose - but a backup generator saved the day by a whisker.

Dave Harrison, a Malvern Hills district councillor, was one of about 30 Kempsey residents who held their breath and crossed their fingers on Wednesday when flood pumps in Kempsey failed to start because of a power cut at around 4.15pm.

Cllr Harrison said: "The quantity of water coming down the Hatfield Brook was tremendous and, when the power failed it was up to 12.3 metres, the point where the pump kick in. The power failed at the precise time the pumps were needed. It was up to 12.4 metres when the first pump started up automatically on the generator. It took a while for it to get up to pumping capacity by which time the brook had risen further to about 12.7 metres. That is the highest it can go before water starts getting into properties. It was a very close call. The second pump didn't kick in until the brook reached 12.7 metres.

"I was watching it. I wasn't going anywhere. People on Church Street were very worried but the people from the Environment Agency remained calm. They were confident it was going to work. The Envrionment Agency were very reassuring. If not for the flood defences and with the height of the River Severn at present all of Church Street would have been underwater and the A38 and the Crown (the pub on the main road) would have been closed."

A spokesman for Western Power Distribution confirmed that from around 4.30pm 4,000 customers were without power in the Worcester area, including Kempsey although this had been reduced to 3,600 by around 5.30pm and there were around 60 without power yesterday (Thursday). Of the customers affected 2,000 were understood to be from the Kempsey area.

Cllr Harrison said the wind on Wednesday was so strong it moved his garden shed and shed roofs blown off by the 'mini tornado'.

Dafydd Evans, area manager for the Environment Agency said: “We’ve worked hard to make sure we have contingencies and plans in place for situations like this. The generators at Kempsey kicked in when the power went off enabling the scheme to function as usual, protecting the residents of Kempsey.”

* Meanwhile, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service has issued advice about sandbags which is available on their website. There is no council service in Worcestershire or Herefordshire for the disposal of used sandbags.

People are advised to use the sand in their own gardens and place the empty bags either in their refuse bin, or store them in a dry place to be used again (hessian and plastic bags will store for up to 12 months when kept dry and out of the sun). People are reminded not to overfill sandbags and they should be between a half and two thirds full. More information is available on the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue service homepage -