The Thames Barrier is a unique flood control structure on the River Thames at Woolwich Reach in East London. It is 520 meters wide and protects London against storm surges and rainfall swelling.
The barrier currently protects 125sq km (48sq miles) of London, including an estimated 1.25 million people, £200 billion worth of property and infrastructure, a large proportion of the London tube network and many historic buildings, power supplies, hospitals and schools.
Without the barrier the Houses of Parliament, the O2 arena, Tower Bridge and areas of Southwark, Beckton, West Ham, Whitechapel would all be submerged in flood water.
It took eight years to build the structure, costing £535m (£1.6 billion in todays money) and became fully operational in 1982.
The Thames Barrier is the second largest flood defence barrier in the world after the Oosterscheldekering Barrier in the Netherlands.
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