Monday, February 4, 2013

We must be prepared for the flooding caused by a 'new kind of rain', says Lord Smith

Cole Moreton in the Telegraph (UK): “We are much safer than we were, but there is a constant need to upgrade and improve the defences,” he says. “With more extreme weather patterns happening now and the prospect of the sea level rising over the next 50 years or so, we have to become even more vigilant.”

Lord Smith is in a café in Canvey Island, Essex, on the sea wall built after the terrible events of January 31, 1953. Waves from the North Sea, overcome barriers along the coast, flooding homes suddenly in winter darkness.

“This was a really devastating event,” says Lord Smith, who has just been at a memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral to honour the 307 men, women and children who died along the East Coast. In what was one of Britain’s worst peacetime disasters, 30,000 people were forced to leave their homes because of the flooding.

“There were no systems in place to warn people in advance of flooding events of this kind. The defences in place were nowhere near adequate for the scale of the surge. Both those things have been put right,” he says. The floods led to the construction of the Thames Barrier and, on Canvey, where 59 people died, a concrete wall was put along the shore.

 “The defences here are two metres higher now than they were on that night,” says Lord Smith, 61, whose agency defends 3,100 miles of coastline, and protects the country from floods and drought. “In November 2007 there was quite a strong surge that came down the North Sea and hit at Great Yarmouth. We were seriously worried … the surge came to within three inches of the top of the defences, but it was out of sync with high tide so didn’t over-top. It was a very close call. That sort of thing could happen any year.”...

Sunrise over the Thames Barrier, 2008, shot by Ian Dalgliesh, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license


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