Latest Public Sector News

10.02.14

‘Hugely challenging’ weather continues

Flooding continues to damage communities, with the River Thames rising to record water levels. The Environment Agency has now issued 16 severe flood warnings, including 14 in Berkshire and Surrey. 

More heavy rain has been forecast from Tuesday and water levels are expected to continue to rise.

Pete Fox, head of strategy and investment at the Environment Agency, said: “The weather continues to be hugely challenging, with further wind and waves threatening the south west coast and even more rain threatening to cause flooding along the Thames and rivers across the south west, central and southern England.

“Environment Agency teams continue to work around the clock in difficult conditions, to protect homes, communities and land. We urge people to stay safe and not to walk or drive through flood water which can be dangerous and to take care near coastal paths and promenades for fear of being swept away.”

Armed forces have been building flood defences to try to divert the river from homes and businesses, whilst properties have been evacuated in Somerset. Water is being pumped out of the Somerset Levels to try and protect properties and the government has said that dredging will start as soon as the waters recede enough for it to be safe to do so.

Another COBR meeting was held yesterday to try to develop a long-term plan for flood protection.

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday: “As we continue to face these extraordinary weather events, I have made clear again in COBRA this afternoon that every resource is available to the local communities affected.

“We will keep providing whatever immediate practical support and assistance is needed, whether that is extra pumps and sandbags; military support on the ground; emergency funds from the new £7m severe weather assistance fund for local councils.

“In Somerset, the Environment Agency is starting a further flood alleviation plan and, as I’ve said before, when the water levels come down and it’s safe to do so, they will be dredging to make sure that these rivers and ditches can carry more water. With significant disruption to rail lines across the South, but particularly in the South West, I have asked Network Rail to closely monitor the situation and do whatever it takes to restore the lines.

“And as we continue to work on a long-term solution to alleviate the risk of flooding, leading scientific and hydrological experts from the UK and abroad met at Downing Street this afternoon, ensuring that we are drawing on the widest possible pool of scientific expertise.

“I want to assure the public and communities affected that we are doing all we can to get them back on their feet.”

Flooding has also led to severe delays on a number of train lines.

Robin Gisby, managing director of Network Rail, said: “The Thames is rising now to levels not seen for many, many years. What I think is really significant, and it has got worse overnight, is Oxford down to the Thames Valley through Didcot, Reading, Maidenhead and into Paddington.

“This isn't now just flooding, this is groundwater. The land is so saturated we have got water rising up, just as much as flowing on to it. So it is difficult.”

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