Published on 12 Feb 2014 Sections ,

UK floods: Britain on red alert

Britain is hit with weather chaos, with the west of the UK experiencing winds of over 100mph and more heavy rain raising the risk of flooding. Police confirm the fatality of one man.


The Met Office issued a red warning, after 108mph winds are experienced in Wales
– Power cuts hit almost 50,000 homes in south Wales, the west Midlands and the south west
– The West Coast Main Line will close at 7pm for a few hours on Wednesday night, because of high winds
David Cameron said that businesses and homes hit by floods will be eligible for grants of up to £5,000
Fourteen severe flood warnings remain in place in Berkshire and Surrey, with two more in place in Somerset
– The Thames is expected to rise to its highest level in 60 years
– Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin said there is no “blank cheque” for flood damage, despite David Cameron’s comments

The Met Office has issued a red weather warningthe most severe level of threat – for gusts of up to 100mph on the Welsh coast and some north-western parts of England.

Gusts of 108mph have already been recorded in Aberdaron on the north-west coast of Wales according to the Met Office, and the south coast of the Irish Republic has been battered by winds of 96mph, weather forecaster Meteogroup said. Strong waves were also expected to batter coastal areas.

Polcie confirmed on Wednesday night that a man in his 70s had died after being electrocuted. He had been attempting to move a tree which brought down power cables near Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Power and transport problems

Damage cause by the storm further disruption to power supplies, with Western Power Distribution reporting 40,000 homes without power in south Wales, 7,000 in the south west and 1,750 in the west Midlands. In south east England engineers from Southern Electric Power Distribution worked to reconnect over 5,400 homes.

The West Coast Maine Line will close at around 7pm for a couple of hours because of high winds and National Rail has advised passengers to avoid travelling in the affected areas.

Record river levels

And it’s not just the wind: 14 severe flood warnings remain in place along the River Thames, as well as two in Somerset, with hundreds more less severe warnings and alerts dotted across the country. As a result, people in Windsor, Maidenhead and Surrey have been warned to expect severe flooding.

The Met Office has forecast up to 70mm by Friday in the already flooded west country, south Wales, western Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Coastal flooding could also hit the north west coasts and the Dorset coast on Wednesday night, while the threat of groundwater flooding continued in Hampshire, Kent and parts of London, the Environment Agency said.

Since 29 January, 1,135 homes along the Thames Valley have already been flooded.

Read more: Ten pictures that show what flooding looked like in 1953

The map below features tweets, videos and pictures which make reference to “flood” or “flooding”, and is powered by Esri UK.

EA under attack

The beleaguered Environment Agency (EA) has come under heavy criticism for failing to prevent the worst effects of the weather in some areas.

But the scale of the anger was made apparent on Wednesday, after the agency revealed that staff were not being sent to flood-hit Wraysbury, Berkshire, because of resident’s hostility towards them, Sky News reported.

Some 600 troops have now been deployed to help with flood protection and relief, with around 1,000 on standby, and Mr Cameron said “thousands more” were available for tasks like filling and moving sandbags, getting medical assistance to the sick and helping vulnerable people.

Wraysbury prepares for high winds and heavy rain (G)

Wraysbury prepares for high winds and heavy rain

Overnight, residents in Staines, Surrey, were evacuated from their flood-hit homes during the night. While in Wraysbury, Berkshire, a primary school was reportedly turned into a control centre for residents affected by flooding.

Around 1,000 homes in the Thameside village of Datchet were left without power on Tuesday night after power cuts which initially affected 1,700 properties.

And in the saturated Somerset Levels, extra pumps are being brought in from the Netherlands to try and salvage the 100 properties that are flooded in the area.

Since the beginning of December, a total of 5,800 properties have flooded – although the agency also pointed out that 1.3m have been protected by defences.

‘Blank cheque’?

In the midst of the weather chaos, much has been made of David Cameron’s pledge that money was “no object” in providing relief to communities devastated by floods.

But when questioned on Wendesday, Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin has said there is no “blank cheque” for flood damage, despite the prime minister’s comments: “I think what the prime minister was making very clear is that we are going to use every resource of the government and money is not the issue while we are in this relief job, in the first instance, of trying to bring relief to those communities that are affected.”

At prime minister’s questions Mr Cameron said grants of up to £5,000 would be made available to businesses and homeowners hit by flooding to protect their properties better in future. He also announced a £10m fund for flood-hit farmers as well as deferred tax payments and 100 per cent business rate relief for affected businesses.

Despite Mr McLaughlin’s comments, Mr Cameron repeated his pledge that “money is no object in this relief effort” in response to questions from Ed Miliband.

A room with a view in - in Burrowbridge, south west England (R)

A room with a view in – in Burrowbridge, south west England

River risk

In London, the Thames barrier was closed once again on Tuesday, to protect the capital. And the Environment Agency (EA) said water rises among the Thames are among the biggest threat over coming days.

The agency also warned it was “increasingly likely” that other rivers across the south west were at risk of flooding, including the River Severn and River Wye. groundwater flooding is also expected in the coming days in Hampshire, Kent and parts of London.

A tractor is the only vehicle that can drive along the road between Upton-Upon-Severn and Holly Green, Worcestershire (G)

A tractor is the only vehicle that can drive along the road between Upton-Upon-Severn and Holly Green, Worcestershire