UK weather: Emergency service cuts hampering rescue mission, says union boss

General secretary of the Fire Brigades Union warned rescue services 'urgently need' more resources

Cuts to emergency services are hampering the flood recovery effort with fewer people and less equipment available for areas desperately in need of help, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has claimed.

Matt Wrack spoke out on a visit to the flooding command centre in South-west England, saying that rescue services “urgently need” more resources to cope. He said: “Wherever there’s a flood, firefighters are doing a fantastic job helping to keep people safe and reduce the damage done to local communities. But our members are reporting that cuts to fire and rescue services are making it very difficult to cope with the demands of such extreme weather.

“Shortages of both people and equipment are proving real problems, with some fire services refusing requests to send equipment elsewhere in case it is needed in their own areas. Despite incredible claims that money is no object, fire and rescue services urgently need more resources to cope with such challenging conditions.”

The FBU also said the military personnel involved in flood relief efforts did not have enough dry suits, and that in some cases local fire and rescue services had been asked to lend them theirs.

The extreme weather caused further chaos today. A cruise ship passenger died and another was airlifted to shore after their 22,000-tonne vessel was hit by a freak wave in the English Channel. It battered the British cruise ship Marco Polo as it headed for its home port of Tilbury at the end of a 42-night voyage.

Water crashed through a window injuring some of the 735 mainly British passengers. An 85-year-old man and a woman in her 70s were airlifted off the ship, but the man later died.

 

Elsewhere, rush-hour rail commuters faced severe delays after the Purley to Redhill line out of London was closed near Merstham Tunnel at 5.20pm. A spokeswoman for Southern Rail said: “This is our main line coming out of London so there have been knock-on delays as a result.”

An elderly man who was hit by a falling tree in Wales on Wednesday died in hospital yesterday. Bob Thomas, 77, was at home in Caethro, Caernarfon, when the tree fell.

As further heavy rain was forecast, more than 1,000 homes were evacuated in the Thames Valley and the West Country.

Peter Willison, a spokesman for Environment Agency, told a Whitehall briefing that the flooding could continue to affect homes, businesses and land for at least another week.

“We are likely to see more severe flood warnings along the south coast representing the risk from very strong and big waves. We expect levels on slow responding rivers like the Thames, like the Severn, to stay high for a number of days to come. This remains a very live event. I expect we will see further property flooding.”

The agency has 22 severe flood warnings – meaning risk to life – in force along the Thames, the Severn in Gloucester and on the Somerset Levels, and hundreds more flood warnings across England and Wales.

Windsor, Maidenhead, parts of Surrey and communities in Buckinghamshire, West Berkshire and Reading are at risk from the Thames, where water levels have risen to 60-year highs.

Communities along the Stour and Medway in Kent and along the Severn in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, are also under threat. Saturated ground could also lead to flooding around Croydon, Hambledon, Basingstoke and Lower Farringdon in Hampshire.

Severe gales, large waves and high sea levels are threatening coastal flooding on the Dorset coast, while the south coast from Cornwall to East Sussex is also at an increased risk, the Environment Agency said.

Paul Leinster, chief executive of the EA, said: “People should remain vigilant and take action where necessary. Flood water can be dirty and dangerous and people are advised not to walk, drive or play in it.”

The Royal Family lent a hand yesterday as the Duke of Cambridge and his brother Prince Harry joined colleagues from the armed forces in helping with the supply of sandbags to defend Datchet, Berkshire.

The Queen has also shown her support for farmers affected by the flooding on the Somerset Levels by contributing feed and bedding from the royal farms at Windsor, a spokesman for Buckingham Palace said.

Visiting Blackpool to view relief efforts, David Cameron said: “People need to be reassured that we will do whatever it takes to help people during this very difficult time.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate