Flooded areas face more rain, say experts

Weather Chaos: Kent and Sussex are put back on alert and families are told to boil water as two inches of rain are forecast for the weekend
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The Independent Online

Thousands of families were told to boil drinking water yesterday after household supplies in East Anglia were contaminated by flood water and the south of the country was again put on a severe weather warning.

Thousands of families were told to boil drinking water yesterday after household supplies in East Anglia were contaminated by flood water and the south of the country was again put on a severe weather warning.

The Environment Agency warned that severe flooding was likely across Kent and Sussex within 72 hours with forecasters predicting that England and Wales could be heading for the wettest autumn since records began 273 years ago.

Up to two inches of rain was expected to fall in some areas of the south with dire consequences likely, an Environment Agency spokesman said.

"The locations across the region that have already flooded must consider themselves to be at high risk once again," he said. "Unlike the beginning of the week, the predicted tides are now much higher and the rain is expected to be accompanied by strong winds."

Anglian Water warned more than 60,000 home owners to boil their water after flooding on the river Trent resulted in river water seeping into treatment works at Newton near Lincoln. The company said it would be several days at least before tap water could be used as normal.

Tony Blair, on a tour of flooded areas, announced the establishment of an inter-departmental group, headed by the Countryside minister, Elliot Morley, to oversee the response to the problem. While visiting Gloucester, the Prime Minister said that co-operation was the key to preventing further flooding.

"There are three things we've got to get right," he said. "First of all we've got to put up proper flood defences. The second thing is to get the right early warning system and the third thing is that when flooding does occur, as in an area like this, you're getting help to people immediately whether it be by dredging or by sandbags. It's an appalling situation.

"It's important to realise, though, that if it weren't for the defences it would have been much worse," he said.

However, just £2m of the Government's four-year £51m flood defence cash injection would be allocated this financial year, Mr Morley admitted. "This additional funding will mean that additional flood defence schemes can be implemented, but due to design, evaluation and planning permission, most could not be brought forward until 2001," he told the Commons.

Earlier in the day, Mr Blair was heckled as he visited the cathedral town of Chichester. The West Sussex town, which flooded in 1994 resulting in £2m of damage to homes and businesses, was expecting flooding over the weekend. Plans for a flood defence scheme had been held up by local objections.

One heckler said: "It's all right for you in your nice warm office but we've waited six years. It will happen again and it will cost millions."

Mr Blair assured locals: "We will do everything we can, the money is there and the scheme is prepared."

Fifteen severe flood warnings remained in place on seven rivers last night. Yorkshire was the area of most concern, with nine severe flood warnings. The waters south of Selby now cover a larger area that the country's largest lake, Windermere.

A new severe warning was issued in Howden, near Selby, after flood defences were breached. The breach near the river Derwent sent water spilling out across fields, threatening the 500-home village of Howden. Householders were warned through loud hailers and issued with sandbags.

Towns along the Severn were also bracing for yet more floods as the Environment Agency warned that they could be threatened by a "combination" of factors over the weekend, including high tides.

About 5,000 properties across Britain have been affected by the recent floods and hundreds of people are still unable to return to their homes.

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