Floods: How wettest early summer on record brought death and misery across the country

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The Independent Online

Thousands were left homeless this year and 11 people were killed when the worst floods in living memory hit large swathes of the country. More than 55,000 homes and businesses were flooded in Britain's wettest early summer on record.

Extreme rainfall in June and July overwhelmed drains, river channels and flood defences, and there was extensive flooding in the Don, Severn and Thames rivers and their tributaries. It was the wettest May to July since 1766, when reliable records were first collected.

Transport links, schools, power and water supplies were disrupted in the biggest loss of infrastructure since the Second World War, and 49,000 households were drenched. Much of the damage came from surface water.

The Severn between Tewkesbury and Gloucester, the Thames upstream of Oxford and South Yorkshire all had record flood levels, overwhelming many defences. In Yorkshire and Gloucestershire, 140,000 homes were left without clean water.

The total insurance cost is thought to be around 3bn, which will lead to an increase in premiums and concerns about new houses being built on flood plains.

After conducting an independent review of the flooding, Sir Michael Pitt said planning for this kind of natural disaster should have top priority with the Government. "We're trying to raise the priority of flooding, putting it on a level that is somewhat similar to terrorism or pandemic flu," he said last week.

The Government promised funding for flood defences of up to 800m a year by 2011, although some insurers said it was not enough.