Storm Frank could bring more misery to flood victims


Residents in flood-ravaged regions of Cumbria and Yorkshire are being warned their homes could be flooded again.

Storm Frank is due to sweep in from this evening, bringing gales and downpours.

The Environment Agency (EA) warned of the potential for further significant flooding especially in Cumbria, while Floods minister Rory Stewart said there could be a "very bad situation" ahead.

The ground is still saturated and river levels are at record highs.

For the moment, flood waters are receding but across the north of England over the past week more than 6,700 homes have flooded as river levels reached all time highs.

As anxious residents and businesses brace themselves for a fresh onslaught Sir Philip Dilley, the head of the EA, is returning to UK from his tropical family holiday in Barbados.

Sir Philip, who has faced criticism for his absence, is expected back in the next 24 hours. It is believed that a visit to the flood-hit region will be an early priority.

The army were drafted in to help EA staff repair York's Foss barrier. Emergrency work was needed to the defence system, which helps drain water more quickly from the River Foss, after high river levels flooded the pump room and hit the power system.

A Chinook helicopter was used to drop portable power generators onto the barrier's roof on Monday.

Most of the nine remaining "severe" flood warnings issued by the EA for England and Wales - meaning potential loss of life - are centred on York, which was inundated on Boxing Day.

By lunchtime, there were nine severe flood warnings, 42 flood warnings and 49 flood alerts in place across England and Wales.

Asked how worried he is about the forecasts for Storm Frank, Mr Stewart told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Very concerned. These emergency services personnel have been working really hard, so have volunteers.

"I'm now working my way across Yorkshire, heading back up to Cumbria. People have barely had a break for three and a half weeks because this has been going continually since early December.

"As you say, there's another front coming in, there could be more flooding again so we really need emergency services, voluntary groups, mountain rescue to rest to be ready for what could be a very bad situation Wednesday, Thursday."

Elland Bridge in West Yorkshire has been closed after the carriageway crumbled and collapsed after the floods.

Police also urged people in Kendal in Cumbria to get out early and while it is still calm to do their shopping before Storm Frank hits.

West Yorkshire Police - Calderdale Valleys urged members of the public to avoid travelling to the Mytholmroyd and Elland Bridge/Park Road areas "unless absolutely necessary".

In a Facebook post, a spokesman said: "We are receiving reports of members of the public going to 'have a look' and this is causing significant traffic issues which is hampering the joint services relief operation."

The EA's's decision to open the Foss barrier sent flood water coursing through the city streets and left many property owners wondering whether their buildings were put at risk to save others.

The EA said it took this "difficult decision" in "a rapidly moving situation" to reduce flood risk to the residents of York.

An EA spokesman said: "Had the barrier remained closed, and without the pumps running, the flooding would have been more widespread and many more homes would have flooded. The properties that flooded as a result of the opening of the barrier would have flooded had the barrier remained closed."

Residents were warned before properties flooded, he added.

There has been anger over a perceived North/South divide on flood spending and that flooding in Leeds was a preventable disaster. Mr Stewart rejected that position, telling BBC Breakfast that it is a "very fair system" done on the basis of "how many houses are protected and what the risk is to those properties".