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Rishi Sunak meets residents during visit to flood-hit Oxford

The Prime Minister said flooding had had a ‘devastating impact on communities up and down the country’.

PA Reporter
Sunday 07 January 2024 18:19 GMT
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Makes Flooding Visit In Oxford Original Video M245489

The Prime minister has met residents hit by flooding as an amber, cold health alert was issued for parts of England amid falling temperatures.

Rishi Sunak spoke to residents on their doorsteps in Oxford on Sunday before telling Environment Agency (EA) workers during a visit at their depot on Osney Island that “touch wood, we’re past the worst of it”.

Addressing the media in front of the fast-moving river Thames, Mr Sunak said: “Flooding has been having a devastating impact on communities up and down the country.

“I was in the East Midlands last week and I’m in Oxfordshire here today talking to some of those that have been affected, but also saying thank you to our first responders who were doing a fantastic job over the past week.

“We have over 1,000 Environment Agency personnel on the ground in local communities helping, over 200 pumps have been deployed.

“We’ve invested £5.2 billion in flood defences over the period in question, that’s a record sum, far more than we’ve done (previously), in the future that’s contributed to protecting over 300,000 homes.

“And, of course, there have been many people affected by what’s happened over the past week, but also over 49,000 have been protected from flooding.”

Labour has accused the Government of being “asleep at the wheel” over flood warnings with leader Sir Keir Starmer vowing to make flood defences “fit for purpose”, writing on social media that “people’s lives shouldn’t be upended by extreme rain”.

By Sunday lunchtime, there were 172 flood warnings and 176 flood alerts in England.

The EA has previously warned that more properties may be flooded in the coming days amid increased river levels and more rain.

More than 1,800 properties have already flooded after prolonged wet weather and intense rainfall, the agency said, with the impact of high water levels likely to continue, particularly around the rivers Trent, Severn and Thames.

The agency said buildings “will flood and there will be travel disruption” during that time period, and local groundwater flooding is also possible in the South of England, Yorkshire and the Humber.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office have issued an amber, cold health alert (CHA) for the North West of England, West Midlands, East Midlands and South West of England that runs to 12pm on Friday January 12.

It comes as the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for ice on Monday across London and the South East from 4am to 10am with a forecast of “temperatures near zero” later on Sunday.

An amber alert means “cold weather impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service for an extended period of time”.

There is also a yellow, cold health alert in place for the North East of England, Yorkshire and The Humber, East of England, South East of England and London.

Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, said: “With the Met Office forecasting drops in temperature across the United Kingdom into next week, it is important to check in on the wellbeing of those most vulnerable to the cold.”

The cold weather can increase the risks of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections and can have a serious health impact for older people and those with pre-existing health conditions.

The Met Office yellow weather warning states: “A mix of sleet and snow showers will move in from the east later on Sunday night along with temperatures near zero.

“Given these wintry showers, and also wet surfaces after recent wet weather, some icy patches are likely on untreated surfaces.

“Additionally a few of the snow showers could turn quite heavy; these probably only affecting a narrow zone but a few places could see 1-3cm, mainly over the north Downs and on grassy surfaces.”

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