FLOODING HELL ...and more on way
PRIME Minister Boris Johnson met flood victims yesterday and warned them: “There will be more to come.”
Swathes of Britain are reeling from Storm Christoph, which killed one man and led to thousands of other people being evacuated from homes.
The RAF flew Mr Johnson into Greater Manchester after villages surrounding the overflowing River Mersey had been evacuated.
He told some of the residents in Didsbury: “What I’m seeing here is the amazing preparations that the Environment Agency makes.
“I think 10,000 homes in the Manchester area have been protected just as a result of what they’ve been doing overnight.
“There will be more to come, there will be further rain next week, so it’s vital that people who are in potentially affected areas follow the advice.”
His rapid trip north came after he was criticised last March for taking three weeks to visit flood-hit towns in the Midlands.
Yesterday he promised a further £20million for Greater Manchester as part of a £5.2billion programme of flood defences over the next six years.
He also pledged a long-term programme of measures to prevent flooding.
“One idea the Environment Agency talks about is planting trees on the higher ground
to help absorb some of that rainfall,” he said. “As the spring comes and we come out of the pandemic, we’re going to want to see a lot done to build up resilience against flooding.”
As two months’ worth of rain fell over parts of the UK, the River Mersey at Didsbury rose to a record 10.7ft (3.27m) – beating the previous high of 9.8ft (3m) in 2016.
Two thousand homes in East and West Didsbury and Northenden had to be evacuated, and the Environment Agency issued two “threat to life” flood warnings for the area.
Two more were issued nearby for the River Bollin – at Little Bollington and Heatley.
In Cardiff the body of a man was found in the flooded River Taff near the city’s castle.
Witness Karen Woods, 60, said: “I’ve never seen the river so full – it was raging. I can’t see how anyone would stand a chance.”
Last night England was facing 166 flood warnings and 186 less severe flood alerts as rivers in Northumberland and Yorkshire also overflowed. In Warrington, Cheshire, almost 100 people had to leave their homes.
Nearby Northwich was also badly hit, with nearly 50 elderly residents from two care homes being evacuated.
Weaver Court and Marbury Court were then submerged in 5ft (1.5m) of water.
The River Dee in North Wales reached a 53.8ft (16.4m) record high, sparking an evacuation of the village of Bangor-on-Dee.
Nearby the historic Llanerch Bridge, close to St Asaph, collapsed as water rushed past.
In Farndon, Cheshire, many locals walked to the bridge over the River Dee to see the rising tide. John Whittingham, 85, said: “I’ve lived in this village all my life and I’ve never seen it this bad.”
In Lymm, Cheshire, Gabrielle Burns-Smith, 44, watched in horror as her home flooded on Wednesday. “By 3pm the water outside was shin deep and by 4pm it was knee deep and we were seriously worrying that the house was going to be breached.Then it was.
“We’re still in the house, we can’t go anywhere because the water is just too deep.”
There were also evacuations at Ruthin in North Wales and Maghull in Merseyside.
South Wales Police said emergency services were helping evacuations in the Skewen area of Neath.
Not all rallied to help, however, with Network Rail blasting a shameless tractor driver who dumped filthy farm waste on to Hartford train station car park in Cheshire.
Meanwhile Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there had been a repeated pattern of floods followed by an “inadequate response”.
He told reporters in London: “We need to have a long-lasting solution, not promises that aren’t fulfilled.” The Environment Agency warned of more flooding today and tomorrow. The Met Office also issued a swathe of warnings until noon tomorrow.
Forecaster Paul Gundersen added: “As Storm Christoph moves away into the North Sea, gale force winds will impact the North-east.”
TO LOSE a home to flooding in the midst of a pandemic must feel like one of the cruellest twists of fate. Families whose homes have been devastated by floods in the wake of Storm Christoph should know they have the sympathy of the nation.
This should be backed by Government action to help them and to protect other households at risk from rising waters. The extreme weather is a sharp reminder that unchecked, climate change will bring ruin to neighbourhoods across the UK.
Boris Johnson was right to visit the flood victims in Didsbury yesterday. They must not be abandoned and every effort must be made to ensure the country is resilient and ready for more storms.