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Storms and floods affect thousands as government promises more help

David Cameron says the government is working “flat out” to help everyone affected by last night’s severe storms around the country, and the ongoing flooding crisis in the south of England.

But he has refused to commit to halting further job losses due to cuts at the Environment Agency, and he has rebuffed Labour criticisms about the level of flood defence spending.

The prime minister is to lead talks today on responding to the damage caused by the weather, which has left tens of thousands of homes without power across England and Wales, with thousands more homes flooded and ruined.

The Energy Networks Association tweeted this morning: “145,000 people reconnected following storm damage with over 80,000 without power this morning.”

Wales and the north-west of England were hit hardest by the hurricane-force and gale-force winds last night –Greater Manchester Police took more than 1,700 calls in just seven-hours – while flooding is the main problem in the south-west, the Thames Valley, and along the Severn.

A new cabinet committee on flood recovery will meet today, instead of the usual the full cabinet.

The Ministry of Defence said last night that more than 2,000 military personnel were on “high-readiness” in flooded areas.

These headlines from National Rail Enquiries give an idea of the scale of the problems on the rail network:

  • Disruption between Oxford and Didcot Parkway until further notice         
  • Disruption in north western England until further notice
  • Disruption in north eastern England until further notice
  • Poor weather conditions causing disruption in Wales until further notice    
  • Disruption in the Oxted area until at least Monday 17 February
  • Disruption between Eastleigh and Fareham until further notice       
  • Major disruption between London Paddington and Reading until further notice
  • Disruption between Taunton and Plymouth / Penzance until further notice 
  • Disruption between Bridgwater and Taunton until further notice    
  • Disruption between Staines and Windsor & Eton Riverside until further notice     
  • Disruption between Tonbridge and Hastings until further notice     
  • Buses replace trains between Barmouth and Pwllheli until further notice

Yesterday the government announced new measures to help those affected by flooding, including £5,000 repair and renew grants, 100% business rate relief for three months for all businesses affected, a £10m fund for farmers , plus a total commitment of more than £750m from the banks to provide financial support. More on the government’s response here.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, vice-chair of the LGA’s Environment and Housing Board, said: “Councils have worked day and night with emergency services and government agencies to help people affected by the severe weather that continues to spread devastation across our communities. With the weather showing no sign of easing, the relief and recovery effort will remain our top priority.

“The commitment by the government to fully fund the recovery effort will help the councils working tirelessly on the ground to protect residents, homes and businesses from the damage being caused by the heavy rains, strong winds and flooding. Councils are best-placed to understand where help is needed locally and it is vital that government works with us to ensure that this money reaches affected communities as quickly as possible.”

The local government response to the flooding is here.

(Image showing the military assisting residents in Egham, Surrey: Steve Parsons/PA Wire)

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