Friday, January 29, 2010

Damage limitation: Lessons from Cumbria

Mark Hansford has a comprehensive piece in the New Civil Engineer (UK): Last November the Cumbrian towns of Cockermouth and Workington experienced the full force of Mother Nature, as record rainfall led to extreme flooding that destroyed homes, swept away bridges and severed local roads.

Two months on Workington remains virtually split in two. The only means of crossing the river Derwent, which divides the town, is by rail via a temporary railway station built by Network Rail or by foot on a temporary footbridge built by the Royal Engineers in the immediate aftermath of the floods. …Work is now starting on a temporary road bridge. Reconstruction of the two road bridges swept away or damaged irreparably in the floods will take much longer. The cost to the local community will be immense, even with government assistance as more than 1,300 homes were flooded.

…The North West Development Agency has opened a £1M flood recovery grant scheme and it is also investing a further £100,000 on pushing the message that Cumbria is ready to welcome visitors after the floods. The DCLG has also announced that funds from the Bellwin scheme for local authorities for emergency clear-up costs and temporary accommodation will be fully available. Department for Work and Pensions’ social fund community care grants are also being released for people on qualifying benefits to meet the cost of replacing essential household items. Crisis loans are also available.

But the costs will certainly go far beyond that, a report from the Environment Agency revealed last week … The summer 2007 floods cost the country a total of £3.2bn, including more than £2bn to homeowners and businesses and 400,000 in lost pupil days as a result of enforced school closures.

…Barlow is keen to use events in Cumbria as a means of reopening the debate on how the country as a whole handles the future impacts of climate change. Last summer, the Agency said that £20bn must be spent over the next 25 years, just to maintain the current level of protection to the one in six homes now at risk from flooding. “There is an issue for the nation as a whole to be aware of the impact of floods,” says Barlow….

Flooding on the A596 road at Workington, Cumbria, shot by David Trochos,Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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