Insurers expect bill for flooding to reach £2bn

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Much of southern Britain was yesterday still in the grip of its worst flooding for 30 years, with insurers predicting that the final bill to repair the damage could reach £2bn, which would make it Britain's most costly natural disaster.

Much of southern Britain was yesterday still in the grip of its worst flooding for 30 years, with insurers predicting that the final bill to repair the damage could reach £2bn, which would make it Britain's most costly natural disaster.

If the cost does reach that figure, it would be twice as much as the damage wreaked by the great storm of 1987, which devastated the south.

With hundreds of people in Sussex and Kent having been forced from their homes, and scores of properties and businesses ruined by the flooding, the river Medway broke its banks at Maidstone in Kent, causing severe flooding in the town centre.

While forecasters predicted the emergency might ease, many places saw no let up yesterday. The Environment Agency said two-and-a-half times October's normal rainfall had fallen by Thursday evening, causing floods that proved too much for normal defences.

With the position changing by the minute, the Environment Agency retained severe flood warnings for 13 rivers, with a further 78 less serious warnings in place.

"We are monitoring the situation minute by minute," a spokesman said. "The Medway has just broken its banks so the situation is changing all the time. This flooding is certainly the worst the area has seen in the last 30 years."

As many began clearing up the damage left by the water, insurers were predicting massive costs. Jeffrey Salmon, managing director of Salmon Assessors, said the flood damage would most probably cost insurers more than £2bn.

Tonbridge and Yalding also remained on alert last night. Kent Fire Brigade said it received more than 390 calls for help during the previous 24 hours, while 200 soldiers were put on stand-by to assist the emergency services.

On a tour of Lewes and Uckfield - two of the towns worst affected - the agency's chairman, Sir John Harman, said it could take up to a week for the situation to return to normal. Parts of Lewes remain cordoned off and environmental protection officers are now investigating spillages of sewage and fuels from industrial sites into floodwaters in the area.

"We cannot guarantee against floods of the extreme nature we have seen here," Mr Harman said.

"What we do need to be confident about is the way people are warned and that people are given time to get out. Even if everything goes to plan, and we have dry weather and the river walls in Lewes are intact, it will be a long time before people whose livelihoods have been devastated will recover.

"Floods of this severity often claim lives and although we had one man swept away in Uckfield who nearly lost his life, no one has died, and that is a tribute to the speed and efficiency of the emergency services."

Levels recorded on the Medway are the second highest since records began in 1958. Five flood warnings have been issued in the Midlands, but the south remains worst hit.

Comments