British PM Boris Johnson faces scrutiny for flooding response after Storm Dennis

People bail water out of flooded homes after the River Wye burst its banks in Ross-on-Wye, western England, on Feb 17, 2020, in the aftermath of Storm Dennis. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (NYTIMES) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson's response to a storm that battered Britain over the weekend, causing severe flooding in hundreds of towns and villages, prompted a backlash from critics inside and outside his party on Monday (Feb 17).

Johnson came under fire on Monday after his office said he had no plans to visit any of the flooded areas after Storm Dennis.

Flood warnings remained in place across the country, but Johnson had not called a meeting of the government's emergencies committee, known as COBRA, to discuss the situation.

The storm dumped more than half a month's worth of rain in one day in some areas. Rivers overflowed their banks, sending water several feet deep through streets, houses and businesses, forcing many people to leave their homes and cutting some communities off from relief efforts.

Some areas were still recovering from heavy rains and strong winds brought by another storm just a week earlier.

Andy Page, chief meteorologist for the Met Office, Britain's weather service, said that more rain was likely on Wednesday evening, with the possibility it could be "prolonged and possibly heavy".

At least one person died as a result of the flooding over the weekend, and hundreds more have been displaced, the BBC reported.

Serious flooding is becoming a more frequent reality in Britain due to global warming, experts say.

Mohammad Heidarzadeh, head of Brunel University's coastal engineering and resilience lab, said the country's flood defense systems, which were developed decades ago, were "not fit to address the current climate situation, which is characterised by high frequency and high intensity climate events."

Philip Davies, a Conservative lawmaker who represents the area of Shipley in northern England, found fault with the government's response to increased flooding in recent years - a period when his own party has been in control. He told The Telegraph that the same people in his community whose homes flooded over the weekend were also affected by devastating flooding in December 2015.

"It's not as if there hasn't been enough time to do something," he said. "What has been done to stop it happening again? Precious little."

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