UK floods: Environment Agency staff 'were withdrawn from Wraysbury following abuse from locals' as homeowners take matters into their own hands

The GMB union said agency staff had been 'bearing the brunt' of 'hostility' following ministers' criticism

As the flooding crisis across the south was the subject of braying argument and counterargument in the House of Commons today, a union has revealed that the Environment Agency was forced to withdraw its staff from one of the worst-affected villages because of “abuse” from locals.

It was reported that the incident took place on Monday in Wraysbury, Berkshire, which has been subjected to a number of visits from politicians in recent days, and the GMB union said it should be blamed on “irresponsible” comments made by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Though David Cameron last night hailed the “brilliant job” being done on the ground by agency officials, GMB national officer Justin Bowden said they were “bearing the brunt” after repeated criticisms from ministers.

He said: “This report of hostility from the residents on the Thames is a direct result of the irresponsible attack by Eric Pickles (Communities Secretary) and others on the EA.

“His incitement has led to the very people on the frontline who are actually helping to alleviate the situation bearing the brunt of people's frustrations.

“For more than seven weeks since Christmas the Environment Agency's staff have been run ragged helping and supporting the victims of flooding. GMB members have been working double and triple shifts around the clock to protect and assist.”

The GMB said the Prime Minister had repeatedly refused to say whether he would halt planned redundancies at the agency, grants to which have been “cut in real terms by more than a quarter over the past three years”.

The Environment Agency confirmed that staff had been “temporarily withdrawn” on Monday after “some of our staff faced verbal abuse whilst working in Wraysbury”.

A spokesperson told The Independent: “Our staff were back in Wraysbury yesterday and again today, working alongside members of the community and colleagues from other agencies as part of the continuing effort to deal with this exceptional period of weather and flooding.”

Meanwhile, exhausted Wraysbury homeowners today said they had been forced to take matters into their own hands in a desperate bid to save their community from succumbing to flood water.

Residents in the Surrey town of Egham say they are exasperated that their pleas for help from the local authorities appear to be falling on deaf ears.

Members of the military were brought in this morning to dispatch sandbags to some of the areas considered most prone to flooding, while police boats from Sussex were also primed to evacuate the most vulnerable.

The assistance came too late for those in the Pooley Green residential area of the town, where flood water - filthy with faeces from the sewers - lapped around the thighs of some homeowners.

Resident Mark Franks said: “We've got the military now, which is great, but we have not seen a soul here from the authorities.

“I've spoken to the council and the water companies but they have done nothing.

“We said we needed help and raised the alarm at an early stage, but we've seen more journalists here than council, Environment Agency and water staff.”

Elsewhere, residents took the initiative, with two men digging an eight-foot trench into the sodden soil in an attempt to drain stagnant water at the mouth of an estate into a vacant gully.

Read more: Britain's water torture is here to stay until May
Surrey gets first reports of thieves stealing sandbags
Residents in Berkshire say military response is 24 hours too late
Counting the cost of the destruction from the wettest winter in a hundred years
Professor Nigel Arnell: Climate change means we will have to get used to flooding

One of the voluntary workers, who gave his name as Craig, said: “There are 30 houses under one foot of water and it is getting worse.

“There are a lot of elderly people living around here so we needed to act now because nobody else is.

“If the residents ourselves don't do something then we risk losing these houses to the water.”

A short distance down the road, people living in sheltered accommodation were evacuated to safety, while others took the decision to leave after Monday's heavy rainfall.

Those stoically remaining in their homes - despite police advice to leave - paid for private pumping crews to shift the water from their street. But one of the two pumps broke and the operation lost impact.

One of those affected, mother-of-three Suhair Al-Fouadi, said she woke up at 7am today to find her home under a foot of water.

“I just shouted 'Oh my god' and got my children up,” she said.

“I tried to prepare for this, I bought £100 of sand and I called the council.

“But they would do nothing. Now I have water from the sewer coming in through my doors.

Those in the worst-hit part of the town praised the military for coming to their aid, providing sandbags and offering assistance to the most vulnerable.

One man, who asked not to be named, said some locals were insistent on “council bashing”, and said the real responsibility lay with the Environment Agency.

He said: “The council staff are doing all they can, we know they are working hard.

“It comes down to the River Thames not being dredged for so long. If the EA did something about it then maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.”

Runnymede councillor David Knight, whose ward is in Egham, praised those who had pitched in to help.

He added: “People are working together, being neighbourly - that's wonderful to see and a great help.

“But we are dealing with something sent from nature.”

Additional reporting by PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Manchester United's kit for the 2014/15 season
football
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
peopleNobel laureate was a powerful anti-Apartheid voice
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £450pd

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Technical Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £450pd O...

Marketing Comms / Digital Marketing Specialist

Not Specified: Recruitment Genius: An exciting and rewarding role exists for a...

Search Engine Optimisation/ SEO Executive

£25000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Junior Professional Services Consultant - SQL, Implementation

£30000 - £40000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading prov...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor