British PM pressed to do more about flood controls

Streets and about 500 properties in the historic city of York were flooded after two rivers burst their banks on Sunday.
Streets and about 500 properties in the historic city of York were flooded after two rivers burst their banks on Sunday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

YORK • British Prime Minister David Cameron has visited the flood-hit historic city of York as cities, towns and villages across northern England battled to get back on their feet following devastating storms.

Around 500 properties were flooded in York, one of Britain's top tourist attractions, on Sunday as two rivers burst their banks. Some residential streets became so inundated that cars were submerged up to their roofs.

Soldiers helped pile sandbags to protect properties and businesses while emergency services paddled around the streets in dinghies trying to find stranded residents.

The Environment Agency (EA) had 27 severe flood warnings in place yesterday, signalling a "danger to life", chiefly at points along major rivers in Yorkshire. There were also another 170 flood warnings or alerts in place, meaning flooding was either expected or possible.

The country has been hit by a string of serious floods including in Cumbria, in the north, earlier this month, and in late 2013 and early last year in the south-west and south-east. Ministers announced a review earlier this month of whether homes have enough protection.

Mr David Rooke, EA deputy chief executive, told BBC radio that a "complete rethink" was needed.

"I think it (the review) will lead to the conclusion that we will need to reassess all the defences right across the country to say what standard of protection have we now got based on current science and what standard of protection will be needed in the future in the face of this changing climate," he said.

Mr Cameron, whose government was under pressure over the quality of Britain's flood defences, yesterday tweeted a picture of himself meeting soldiers who are helping with the aftermath of the flooding. This came as he faced increasing pressure to take more action to prevent more such chaos in future.

The British leader said a combination of temporary and permanent barriers had helped, but said ministers would look again at what more could be done.

More rain is forecast later in the week, raising the prospect of further floods at a time when many people are still at home following Christmas celebrations.

The Met Office weather forecasting service has issued warnings of rain tomorrow in north-west and north-east England plus Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland.

Meanwhile in the United States, Texas was reeling from rare December tornados yesterday, as days of storms battering a vast region from the south-western US to Canada claimed at least 43 lives.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of blizzards, freezing rain and flash floods in the next days, all part of a powerful storm system fuelled by unseasonably warm air that began in the deep south last week.

The NWS said yesterday that 21 states - from New Mexico to as far north as Michigan - are under a weather watch or warning.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'British PM pressed to do more about flood controls'. Print Edition | Subscribe