Battered Britain: More wet weather... and there's still no sign of leadership

With some parts of Britain cut off from before Christmas, the Environment Agency is under pressure to defend our battered countryside

A A A

The Government braced itself for a further onslaught of storms and flooding last night, as the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, promised that "everything possible" was being done to help potential flood victims and prepare for the further storms and tides forecast to hit the UK today.

Mr Paterson, speaking yesterday afternoon after the latest meeting of Cobra, the Government's emergency committee, promised that the Government was "offering full assistance" to emergency services and local councils. "Five severe flood warnings are in place and I urge anyone living in an area at risk to remain vigilant and listen to the advice issued by the Environment Agency and emergency services," he said.

The promise came as Met Office experts warned there was to be no let-up in the flooding misery being faced by many across the country with more wet weather on the way, following another day of high winds and rain yesterday. Today was expected to see a brief respite for some of the country, with sunny spells to the east of England, with strong winds easing overnight for many. But fresh warnings of rain tomorrow will see up to 30mm of rain in areas across the South-west and into Wales, coupled with winds of up to 60mph, and up to 70mph in some coastal areas. Another system is set to hit on Tuesday and into Wednesday, bringing 15-25mm in some areas of South-west England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with up to 40mm in some spots – plus more gale-force winds that could see up to 80mph on some coasts.

Calum MacColl, from the Met Office, said that the forecast was "still dominated by this sort of weather", with another low pressure front potentially coming on Friday and "even into next week with no signs of longer spells of respite".

 

The warnings came as the Environment Agency struggled to cope with the existing conditions with five severe flood warnings in operation last night, indicating a danger to life, three along the Severn Estuary in Gloucestershire and two along the coast in North Cornwall. Numerous locations across the country faced road closures, with trains in Hampshire affected by a landslide.

This is in addition to around 150 flood warnings, which call for immediate action, and approximately 290 flood alerts, asking residents to be prepared. About 150 properties in the Midlands, South-west and South-east were reported to have flooded, the EA said.

Following the Cobra meeting, Mr Paterson said that "everything possible is being done over the weekend to help those affected by flooding and to prepare for the further bad weather and high tides forecast overnight and into next week. The Government is offering full assistance to the local authorities and emergency services, he added.

A woman and her children are transported after a flash flood A woman and her children are transported after a flash flood However, Maria Eagle, the shadow Environment Secretary, said that this "government by PR" was not helping those in areas such as Somerset that had seen constant problems since December, despite David Cameron stating that he felt "enormous sympathy for the people who live on the Somerset Levels" in writing for the Western Daily Press, yesterday.

"Somerset residents have been facing a horrendous time since before Christmas, yet all they have had from ministers is government by PR. Numerous meetings of Cobra have been announced to the media and Owen Paterson turned up for a couple of hours for the cameras, but still the Government has failed to get a grip," she said.

"The PM promised dredging just hours after his Environment Secretary and the Environment Agency said it wasn't necessary while troops were pledged seemingly without any consultation with the council. Those facing flooded homes lost business, had lengthy journeys to work and school deserve better," she said.

The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson answers questions The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson answers questions Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater, who spent yesterday at the Somerset Levels, speaking to what he called "scared" residents, took aim squarely at the Environment Agency, saying that officials at the top of the organisation were "idiotic" and that they needed to sanction £5m for river dredging, a process that he said would help with the flooding.

He added that the agency needed to "concentrate on people", referencing the £31m sanction for a bird sanctuary in the area. "They can't just be an environment agency, they have to be a flood-protection agency as well, which means they dredge the rivers, build the defences, right across the country," he said.

Contamination was also key, with residents facing dirty water – with septic tanks in the area. This was confirmed by test results on waters in Moorlands, Somerset, obtained by microbiologists from the University of Reading. They found the waters contained 60,000-70,000 bacteria per 100 millilitres. According to the WHO, agricultural water should have no more than 1,000 bacteria per 100 millilitres.

Rising waters: Inundated fields in the South-west Rising waters: Inundated fields in the South-west Microbiologist Nathaniel Storey, who carried out the research, said the results were not unexpected given the extent of the flooding. Mr Storey told Sky News that it would take "about two to three months" for the bacterial levels to drop significantly. Public Health England has advised residents to stay away from flood water and wash their hands and surfaces for food preparation.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said that it "was not acceptable that in the 21st century people are feeling scared because of water in Britain" – ahead of a visit to the area on Tuesday by the Prince of Wales to see victims of the flooding in Somerset, which has seen some areas cut off for a month.

The EA said that it was "working around the clock" to reduce the risk of flooding and had protected more than 70,000 homes, with flood barriers also being put up around parts of the River Severn – and it was also ready to close the Hull Barrier at the Humber Estuary as flooding is also a risk there. Kate Marks, the EA's flood-risk manager, said: "In the coming days, the Environment Agency is likely to issue further flood alerts and flood warnings, so people should check their flood risk."

 

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015