PM Visits Flood-Hit Areas Ahead Of More Rain

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David Cameron has described flooding that has hit parts of the country as a “tragedy” as he prepares to visit some of the worst affected areas.

The Prime Minister chaired another meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee on Sunday night as the huge clean-up operation got under way following some of the worst flooding in decades.

He also confirmed some of the details of a £10m package to aid flood-hit businesses so they can clean up and keep trading as he meets volunteers, residents and troops in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire later on Monday.

Mr Cameron said: “I am hopeful that the work to strengthen long-term flood defences, and the emergency measures which have been put in place over recent days and weeks will mean that we can minimise the number of homes and businesses affected by the latest high water levels.

Floodwaters in UK after winter storms

A damaged boat lies against a weir in the River Thames at Runnymede

“The recent flooding has been a tragedy for all those affected and my thoughts are with them.”

The Prime Minister added: “While it is of no comfort to those individuals, over 1.3 million other homes have been protected since December and we will continue to invest in flood defence measures to protect even more.”

On Sunday, police were called to a second sinkhole which opened up in the garden of a home in Croxley Green, Hertfordshire.

Four homes, a house and three flats, were evacuated in the street after the 20ft deep hole appeared. Structural engineers and the fire service were assessing the situation.

Floodwaters in UK after winter storms

Soldiers wade through flood water on Chertsey Meads

Another large sinkhole, in nearby Hemel Hempstead, opened up last week.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond defended the Government’s handling of the flooding crisis but admitted the military could have been brought in earlier to help deal with the winter storms that have wracked the country and claimed a number of lives.

He said Royal Engineers were now being tasked to carry out a high-speed assessment of “serious” damage to the UK’s flood defence infrastructure but conceded that in future the Government would involve the military earlier in the process and be more “aggressive” in urging local authorities to use troops.

Swathes of the UK remain on high alert as people battle to protect their homes and communities from the floodwaters, which are still expected to rise in places despite a respite from the storms.

Floodwaters in UK after winter storms

Floood water surrounds houses near Walton on Thames

Sporadic rain is expected in the coming days, bringing fears of the possibility of water levels rising once again, but forecasters are predicted a largely drier week ahead.

The Environment Agency (EA) said 16 severe flood warnings remain in place for the South West and the Thames Valley, with nearly 130 flood warnings and more than 180 flood alerts.

Two people died on Friday – James Swinstead, 85, an elderly passenger on a cruise ship in the English Channel, and minicab driver Julie Sillitoe, 49, whose car was hit by falling masonry in central London.

A 20-year-old pregnant woman and her unborn baby, from Tredegar, south Wales, also died in a crash on the A465 between Brynmawr and Garnlydan.

Floodwaters in UK after winter storms

Firemen adjust a pump in Staines-upon-Thames

Firefighter Clifford Cox, 53, died of an apparent heart attack while on duty in a flood-hit area on Saturday night, but it is unclear whether there was any link to the storms.

And a 65-year-old man in West Cork, Ireland, was killed after being hit by a pole while repairing damage for a phone company.

Mr Hammond said more than 3,000 troops were currently deployed to help and 5,000 more were available if needed.

Under the £10m Business Support Scheme, small and medium sized businesses will be able to access funds to cover clean-up costs in the wake of the winter storms.

Flood warnings

Sixteen severe flood warnings are in place across the UK

A helpline is also being set up to provide advice, and those who are late filing accounts because of the flooding will not incur penalties.

Mr Cameron said: “The Government is taking action across the board to deal with the clear-up and help hard-working people affected by the floods.

“Dealing with these floods will be a long haul, requiring a stepped-up national effort with the whole country pulling together.

“We will continue to help the people who need help and protect the communities that need protecting.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “It is vital that small businesses affected by the flooding get assistance as quickly as possible.

“We know the insurance companies are working to process claims as quickly as possible and we will inform local authorities of their allocations from the Business Support Scheme on Thursday to assist businesses with clean-up costs or help them to continue trading.”

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