UK

UK Weather: Fresh Storms To Batter Flood-Hit Britain

08/02/2014 07:49 GMT | Updated 08/02/2014 07:59 GMT
PA

Large swathes of England and Wales are on flood alert today as yet another storm with winds of up to 70mph arrives to batter Britain.

The crisis-hit Somerset Levels where many residents have already been forced from their homes after weeks of heavy rain remain at the highest risk of continued flooding.

The Environment Agency (EA) also highlighted the coastline of Devon and Dorset as being at "significant risk" of new flooding as high tides and winds arrive.

There are more than 300 low-level flood alerts and nearly 200 medium-risk flood warnings in place across Wales and southern and central England as north as Hull.

The storm will move north-eastwards bringing with it winds of up to 70mph and heavy showers throughout today, weather forecasters MeteoGroup said.

The highest risk of flooding will be around lunchtime.

The continued storms come after the Prime Minister pledged to do everything he can to help the flood-stricken communities of the Somerset Levels but warned solutions would take some time.

David Cameron's visit to the region yesterday coincided with a trip by beleaguered EA chairman Lord Smith to the area, where he faced furious residents and calls to quit.

Mr Cameron travelled to the Somerset Levels via helicopter - meaning he was able to view the region's 65 square miles of submerged land first-hand.

"It's a biblical scene," Mr Cameron said.

"The scale of it here in Somerset is immense when you think of how many square miles are under water.

"Clearly people here have faced a very tough time and continue to face a tough time and that's why we have got to do everything we can to help."

More support from the emergency services, more pumps and more money will be available to help Somerset, he promised residents.

"Everything that can be done will be done and I'll make sure that happens," he added.

He also admitted that the decision to stop dredging the Tone and Perrett rivers in the 1990s was "wrong" and a period or more

"intensive" dredging was needed.

But Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Conservative MP for flood-hit Bridgwater and West Somerset, told the Daily Mail it was not enough and that foreign aid money should be diverted to help Britain's flooded regions.

He said: "We send money all over the world now we need to give people down here the hope that they will get what they need.

"We should divert some of it down here. We don't have to divert it forever, but we need it now."

Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, told the Daily Mail: 'We've got to make sure we look after our own at this stage. Foreign aid is good, but it is wasted.

"We need to make sure that money comes straight to the West Country. We've got to rebuild coastal defences and railways."

Yesterday Mr Liddell-Grainger attacked Lord Smith over his first visit to the Levels since the flooding began at Christmas.

"I will tell him what I bloody well think of him - he should go, he should walk." he fumed

"I'm livid. This little git has never even been on the telephone to me.

"He's a coward."

The under-fire Labour peer was met with calls to resign from angry residents who have criticised the EA for their slow response and failing to dredge the rivers.

He said: "I have no intention of resigning because I'm very proud of the work the Environment Agency and its staff have been doing right round the country in the face of the most extreme weather."

Mr Cameron and Lord Smith's visits - a week after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was heckled by local residents - came as Royal Marines were helping evacuate some 140 properties in the village of Moorland.

Another night of heavy rain overwhelmed local flood defences and, despite advice from police, a handful of people have chosen to remain in their homes.

As residents have struggled to cope with the rising water, police arrested three men on suspicion of stealing fuel from near the cut-off village of Muchelney.

The arrests follow the theft of 600 gallons of domestic heating oil from a farm in Moorland and the theft of two fire service quad bikes from Burrowbridge last week.

Around 5,000 properties have been affected by flooding across the country, including 40 in Somerset.

The local government secretary has ordered a flood defence repair audit of both EA defences and private defences, following the latest meeting of the Government's emergency committee COBRA last night.

Eric Pickles said: "We continue to make sure every preparation is made before the severe weather expected this weekend and the following days.

"I ask everyone to remain vigilant and follow the advice being issued by the Environment Agency.

"I want to pay tribute to all the people who have rallied to support those communities affected.

"I want to reassure the country that everything possible is being done to help those communities affected by these terrible storms, and work to be prepared for any further bad weather we may see in the days ahead."

He also announced that he will be lowering the threshold for the Bellwin scheme, a scheme which reimburses local authorities with central government money following disasters.

It should make an extra £15 million available to meet the immediate costs associated with protecting lives and properties.

Mr Pickles added that "impressive British goodwill" has seen neighbours helping each other out and people refusing to take money for providing shelter.

Gatwick Airport has also waived fees for additional Flybe flights between Newquay and London to alleviate pressure on the transport system in the south west. .

The Ministry of Defence has put 1,500 personnel on 6 hours notice to help in the south if needed, the Cabinet Office said.

This morning around 670 homes in the Newbury, Basingstoke, Bournemouth and Salisbury areas were without power.