Flood alerts have been issued across London after a combination of heavy rainfall and high spring tides saw the Thames break its banks.

The Environment Agency described the tide levels on Thursday (February 11) as “astronomical” and said the river from Greenwich to Putney was liable to flooding. Water lapped up against the railings at Bankside while the water reached the pavement at Embankment.

Warnings were issued for Custom House, Narrow Street in Limehouse and the Old Royal Naval College frontage with the EA saying the levels could remain high over the weekend.

Steve East, engineering manager at the Thames Barrier said: “We closed the barrier to protect London from the threat of flooding due to the high level of rain last week combined with high tides from the sea.”

The flood plain in Greenwich filled, as it is designed to do, when the Barrier closed on Wednesday, with a 3.37m difference between the east side and the west.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Flooding of land closest to the river may be possible, no property flooding is expected.”

The heavy rain, prompted by Storm Imogen is likely to be replaced by snow. Friday (February 12) was noticeable colder than in recent days and there are predictions of temperatures around –6C.

The Thames Barrier is one of the largest moveable flood barriers in the world, protecting 125 square kilometres of central London, encompassing 1.25 million people and the infrastructure that London depends on.

It stretches 520 metres across the River Thames at Charlton and each gate takes 10 to 15 minutes to close (1 and a half hours for total closure of the barrier), and the control room is manned 24 hours a day, every day of the year.