DCSIMG

Weather: Flood-hit areas face more heavy rainfall

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  • by ALASTAIR DALTON
 

YET more flooding is threatened across southern England from another three days of heavy rain after storms tore a hole in a main rail line and forced further evacuations.

Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday sought to seize the initiative over the worsening crisis by announcing an extra £100 million for repairs and other “urgent work” in Somerset.

The move came as another amber – “be prepared” – severe weather warning was issued by the Met Office for southern England.

Forecasters warned that heavy rain from this afternoon until Saturday would cause more flooding.

The latest damage included the destruction of part of the London to Cornwall rail line, whose foundations were washed away after a sea wall collapsed on a coastal section at Dawlish, between Torquay and Exeter.

Network Rail said the route would be closed for up to six weeks for repairs, which would be “the biggest engineering feat we have faced in the south-west for at least the last decade”.

The Environment Agency said 328 homes had been flooded since Friday.

In Scotland, a flood warning was issued for the Kirkcaldy coast last night by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ahead of high tides and strong winds.

Three other flood warnings were in force for the River Isla in Perthshire.

A yellow – “be aware” – warning for heavy rain was in force for north-east Scotland, north of Perth.

Mr Cameron described the situation in Somerset as “unacceptable”, a day after the Prince of Wales said during a visit there: “The tragedy is that nothing happened for so long.”

Prince Charles has pledged £50,000 to support flood victims, with the Duke of Westminster providing a further £50,000.

The Prime Minister said some £75m would fund repairs, £15m for maintenance and £10m for “urgent work” in Somerset.

Mr Cameron also chaired a meeting of Cobra, the civil contingencies committee that leads responses to national crises.

He told MPs: “Whatever is required, whether it is dredging work on the rivers Tone and Parrett, whether it is support for our emergency services, whether it is fresh money for flood defences, whether it is action across the board, this government will help those families and get this issue sorted.”

The move follows growing anger over a perceived lack of government action to help flood-hit areas.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Many of those affected feel the government’s response has been slow and that more could have been done sooner.”

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said the extra funding was “like trying to plug the leaks when the dam’s about to burst”.

He said: “The Prime Minister may bluff and bluster about cuts in flood defences, but he can’t disguise his government’s short-sighted and disastrous decisions.

“Official figures show the coalition spent less than the last government on flood defences.

“With climate change worsening flood risk, there is now a gaping half-billion-pound hole between what’s been spent on defences and what’s required.”

Residents have begged the Environment Agency to start dredging, with many complaining they are living in “Third World” conditions with “overflowing” septic tanks.

More than 128,000 acres have been deluged in the Somerset Levels, around Bridgwater, with around 40 homes under water and 200 more cut off.

Yesterday, police used a helicopter to warn people in more than 150 properties at Fordgate and Northmoor to leave their homes.

Some 10,000 homes in south-west England remained without power yesterday after the latest storms on Tuesday night which hit 44,000 customers.

Western Power Distribution said “airborne debris” had hit overhead lines.

A spokesman said: “It’s an extremely exceptional event”.

Weather forecaster MeteoGroup said the strongest gusts overnight were at Berry Head in Devon, where they reached 91mph.

The Environment Agency had eight severe flood warnings in force yesterday, where there is a “risk to life”. They covered much of the south coast from Cornwall to Dorset, and the Somerset Levels. There were a further 65 flood warnings.

 

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