Britain becoming a flooding 'hot-spot'

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Britain's changing climate is fast making the country a flood "hot spot", the Environment Agency warned yesterday.

Britain's changing climate is fast making the country a flood "hot spot", the Environment Agency warned yesterday.

Five million people already live in flood risk areas in England and Wales, with property, land and other assets valued at £214bn. Twenty-five people have died as a result of floods in the past two years, with many thousands more suffering trauma and devastating damage to homes and possessions, according to the agency.

The Flood Action Week campaign, which the agency began yesterday, coincides with the introduction of its new warning codes in England and Wales. From midnight tonight, the yellow, amber and red colour-coded warnings will be replaced by four new flood codes: Flood Watch, Flood Warning, Severe Flood Warning and All Clear. Research has shown these to be more easily understood by the public than the previous codes.

Sir John Harman, chairman of the agency, said: "Flood risk is now a fact of daily life in England and Wales. Looking at recent history, reports of flooding are now on average twice as frequent as they were 100 years ago. More worryingly, with climate change, we could see up to a tenfold increase in flood risk over the next century. A typical flood that might now happen on average once in 100 years could occur as frequently as every 10 or 20 years in future.

"We can't tame nature. Floods will happen. Look at the recent case of Yorkshire and Co Durham. The floods hit in June when people were least expecting a deluge. Nine out of ten of the 1,000 properties flooded were family homes, and the damage in insurance terms alone was estimatedat £12m.

The agency's campaign message, "Flooding. You can't prevent it. You can prepare for it", will feature in its first national advertising campaign on television and radio and in a maildrop to 800,000 properties in flood risk areas, as well as publicity and awareness-raising activities across the country throughout Flood Action Week.

The campaign is backed by Floodline, a telephone hotline that gives details 24 hours a day of all flood warnings and advice on how to protect property.

Since its launch in October, Floodline has helped nearly 90,000 callers, offering a measure of the high demand for consumer advice.

The agency advocates simple and common-sense actions to prepare for a flood, including adequate preparation of insurance policies, protecting vital documents, and marking gas and electricity switches clearly so that power supplies might be turned off easily in the event of emergency.

For more information, call Floodline (0845 988 1188), or visit the agency's website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood.

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