Friday, June 29, 2007

UK infrastructure damage from flooding

Guardian, UK: The government was today accused of underestimating the scale of the floods that have swamped many parts of Britain after new figures showed as many as 3,500 people have been rescued by the fire service in the past few days.

The rescue effort was described as the biggest in peacetime Britain as another body, the sixth, was pulled from flood waters. Police divers recovered the body after reports that a man, believed to have been aged around 60, had fallen from a dinghy in Torksey, Lincolnshire.

Official data revealed that the fire service received more than 7,300 calls to flood-related incidents on Monday and Tuesday in England and Wales. The majority of the incidents were in Humberside, Yorkshire, Shropshire, Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire….The Fire Brigades Union said its own research revealed that fire crews were working "to the point of collapse".

"The government has not understood the scale, gravity and severity of what has happened," the union's general secretary, Matt Wrack, said. "We have witnessed the biggest rescue effort in peacetime Britain by our emergency services, and it's not over yet.

Today, the head of the Environment Agency, Lady Young, described this week's floods as "a one in 150-year event". "No amount of flood defence preparation can withstand these very extreme events," she told the BBC. "We need more investment in flood defences and to think hard about building on flood plains."

She said this week's havoc was not caused by the failure of flood defences but by their "overtopping".

Mark Whyman, the assistant chief constable of South Yorkshire police, called for people to save electricity and share cars to reduce the strain on the county's "significantly damaged" infrastructure. He said the utility companies were working to restore services and some roads had "structural problems which would take some time to repair".

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