Millions given winter flood warning

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The Independent Online

Millions of people in Britain's flood-risk areas must wake up now to the dangers of flooding this winter, the Environment Agency says today.

Although last autumn's deluge saw 10,000 houses and businesses inundated across England and Wales, and in some severely affected places families have still not been able to return to their homes, nearly 50 per cent of people living in flood-prone areas are oblivious to the risk and only one person in 10 takes any action to prepare, new research by the agency shows.

It estimates that up to five million people live in natural floodplains and could be affected if flood waters rise again this year, endangering two million homes and 185,000 businesses. Property, land and assets worth £200bn could be damaged.

The findings come as scientists confirm evidence of increasing winter rainfall and river-flow extremes over the past 40 years, the agency says. High tides during the coming week will be this autumn's first risk for many coastal areas.

A television and newspaper advertising campaign from today draws on the memory of floods in 1998, 1999 and 2000, asking people starkly: "Do you really need another warning?"

The campaign urges people to "wise up to flooding" and call the agency's 24-hour Floodline for advice on how to prepare and make homes more resistant to flood damage. Floodline also gives details of flood warnings in force and free information on local warning services, clean-up and repairs.

Last year, Floodline took 781,000 calls. At the peak of the crisis in November, it was the most commonly dialled number after 999.

In places such as Lewes, East Sussex, and Yalding, Kent, people have still not been able to return to their homes.

The Floodline number is 0845 9881188.