UK

UK Weather: Floods Could Get Worse, Cameron Warns

15/02/2014 21:54 GMT | Updated 15/02/2014 21:59 GMT

David Cameron has warned that the flooding crisis is likely to get worse even though Britain is set for a respite from the devastating winter storms.

The Prime Minister's comments come after a poll for the Observer showed that more than half of Britons - 51% - believe he has not dealt well with the flooding.

Cameron said while the weather was due to improve, the sheer volume of rain over recent weeks meant groundwater levels would keep rising in may places.

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Volunteers from the local community and charities help to fill sandbags

The comments came as power firms struggled to reconnect tens of thousands of homes after the latest downpours and high winds. Two people were killed yesterday - including a female minicab driver whose car was hit by falling masonry.

Despite weather forecasters predicting an "improving picture" with lighter winds and less rain, the Environment Agency said parts of southern, south west and central England remain at risk of flooding due to high river levels following the recent heavy rainfall.

Cameron, who visited flood-hit Chertsey in Surrey before chairing the Government's Cobra emergency committee Saturday evening, said the next 24 hours would be "vital" as river levels were set to rise again.

"Thankfully, it does appear that we will see less rain and wind over the next few days," he said.

"However, after so much rain over recent weeks, groundwater levels remain very high and in many places will continue to rise."

Meanwhile, a poll by ComRes for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror found that just 59% of people thought the Government was "beginning to get a grip" on the flooding.

Some 48% said the storms had made them more convinced that climate change was happening, compared to 30% who said their views had not changed.

A separate Opinium poll for the Observer found 51% thought Cameron had responded badly to the floods.

Some 51% of those questioned said they believed issues around climate change and global warming caused the floods while 24% did not take that view, and 20% were neutral.

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Two women chat on a flooded street adjacent to the river Thames

EA chairman Lord Smith admitted he "could have done better" during the flooding crisis and said the country needs to take a "serious look" at how it prepares for more extreme weather.

He told LBC Radio: "I think there are certainly some things that I could have done better.

"I think we could and should have worked harder to persuade partner organisations in Somerset to undertake some of the longer term work that's needed down there which we were wanting to start last year but we weren't able to get the other bits of money that we needed on to the table.

"I should have worked harder to do that - i.e. I probably should have gone down there earlier than I did.

"But on the whole I've been actually very proud of the way that the Environment Agency's staff have responded and in the process have managed to protect 1.3 million homes around the country that would otherwise have flooded if our defences and our work hadn't been in place."

He added: "Now, we need to have a serious look as a country at how we prepare ourselves for that and how we build our flood defences."

The Ministry of Defence said more than 3,000 servicemen and women were committed to helping the flood relief effort with "thousands more at a state of high readiness" to assist if requested.

The Energy Networks Association said the number of homes without power had fallen to 65,409 this evening, with 600,000 customers reconnected since Friday's storms.

Paul Leinster, chief executive of the EA, said; "We continue to see the very real and devastating impacts that flooding can have on communities and business. We know the distress that flooding can cause and are doing everything we can to reduce the impacts.

"Despite an improving forecast the risk of flooding will continue for many communities in southern parts of England over the next few days. We ask people to remain vigilant and take action where necessary.

"Environment Agency teams are working round the clock to support local authorities' relief effort. We have also teams out working to reduce the risk of flooding to communities and have deployed over 50 temporary defences.

"Over 1.3 million properties have been protected since the start of December thanks to Environment Agency defences and the Thames Barrier will close for a record 16th consecutive time today."

A 20ft deep sink hole appeared Saturday morning under a quiet cul-de-sac in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

The people living in 17 homes close to the site in Oatridge Gardens were evacuated, as the hole, measuring approximately 35ft wide and 20ft deep, was investigated.

Yellow "be aware" weather warnings of icy driving conditions are now in place for most of the UK. Across the south of England, Wales and the Midlands there are also warnings of heavy rain.

Met Office forecaster Charlie Powell said temperatures could drop to minus three Celsius overnight before Sunday is expected to be a dry day for most areas.

"It will be markedly different than it has been in the last few weeks," he said.