The financial toll of the floods: Britain is second most economically vulnerable country in Europe to extreme weather

 

Environment Editor

A A A

The cost of flooding to businesses across southern England became increasingly apparent yesterday as a new report warned that floods pose a greater risk to Britain’s economy than any other in Europe, except Germany.

The high concentration of commercial centres, private property and infrastructure in areas susceptible to flooding, together with a relatively strong economy and rainy weather, makes Britain one of the most vulnerable countries to flooding in the world, in terms of lost economic output.

Despite having some of the best flood defences in the world, Britain’s geography, weather, population concentration and economic distribution give it the seventh highest “economic exposure” to flooding in the world, and make it second in Europe, the report finds.

Furthermore, with climate change set to wreak stronger and more frequent storms, the British economy is “facing severe tests”, said Dr Richard Hewston , principal environmental analyst at the Maplecroft  consultancy behind the report.

“Predictions for the UK suggest climate change is likely to boost the frequency of major storms and increase risks to economic output as a result of flooding,” he said.

“The future scale of the problem will depend heavily on the government continuing to build resilience and apply resources through flood mitigation and risk management schemes,” Dr Hewston added.

The report, published today, comes after the Somerset Chamber of Commerce yesterday gave a “first glimpse” of the economic impact of the flooding on the county’s businesses. Its survey of local businesses found that those affected by flooding had lost an average of £17,352 in the six weeks since flooding began.

The Chamber said its survey responses indicate that the flooding has had an impact on 70 per cent of businesses in the county, with almost 40 per cent seeing  a reduction in customers and more than 35 per cent reporting a drop in sales.


Futhermore, the survey showed that the average employee had lost 10 working days’ worth of time this year as they were unable to get to work, or arrived late.

The floods are set to take a huge toll on the insurance industry, with Justin Gott of insurance firm Hiscox predicting the cost to insurers could top £1bn if the rains continue into March or April.

David Cameron held a summit with Britain’s leading insurance heads yesterday where he called on them to process claims as quickly as possible.

Insurers have paid out about £14m in emergency payments since December 23, with individual households receiving between £500 and £3,000, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said.

A further £24m has been spent on hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and rented homes, it added, with the average cost per household expected to come in at about £16,500.

Homeowners in areas of high flood risk were disappointed yesterday when, straight after his meeting with the prime minister, ABI's head of property Aidan Kerr refused to rule out an increase in premiums as a result of the floods. “It’s too early to say whether this will have an impact on premiums,” he told Sky News.

Labour branded the meeting between Mr Cameron and the insurers “a vacuous PR stunt”.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher said: “The government’s transparent attempt to try to grab a few headlines does nothing for those affected by the floods. Three hapless junior ministers booking a meeting room does not constitute a serious response to the flooding crisis.”

However, flooding minister Dan Rogerson said the insurers had stressed their commitment to the Flood Re scheme, which was agreed with the government over the summer and will provide affordable insurance for 350,000 homes at high risk of flooding.

The flooding crisis manifested itself in another, unpleasant, way yesterday as the wet ground making burials virtually impossible in some areas.

Authorities say there is little they can do about weather-related funeral delays, which have created dangerous conditions for gravediggers.

Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematory Management, said: “It’s absolutely terrible for people but there’s very little the burial authorities can do until the water subsides.”

“You can imagine it’s impossible to excavate a grave for a funeral where parts of the cemetery are under two feet of water,” he added.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said yesterday that the weather would calm down over the next few days.

“We are heading into a period of typical winter weather, still unsettled but more in line with what would be expected at this time of the year. We are not expecting to see the extremes of wind or rain that we saw last week,” a Defra spokesman said.

However, the spokesman cautioned that large parts of the south would remain at threat of floods in the coming weeks, whatever the weather.

“Groundwater levels continue to rise across the south increasing the likelihood of localised flooding – levels are likely to remain high for some weeks to come,” he said.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work in ...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star