Government not able to protect every household, new minister claims

A minister has admitted the Government will not be able to protect every house from flooding after the country was hit by a second major storm within a week.

New Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News that the Government had not been caught off guard by the floods caused by Storm Dennis.

Speaking during a visit to York to discuss tackling flooding, Mr Eustice said that there was always more that could be done.

Mr Eustice added: “We’ve done a huge amount – we can’t do anything about these extreme weather events but the steps we’ve taken have meant the impact of those weather events have affected fewer properties.”

He blamed the “nature of climate change” for the scale of the damage, and said: “There is always more that can be done.

“We’ll never be able to protect every single household just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme, but we’ve done everything that we can do with a significant sum of money, and there’s more to come.”

The Environment Secretary’s comments come after the country took a battering of heavy rain and strong winds as Storm Dennis lashed the UK, just a week after Storm Ciara.

Parts of the UK were buffeted with winds of more than 90mph, while more than a month’s worth of rain fell in 48 hours – leading to to a record number of flood warnings and alerts in England.

Roads and railways were flooded on Sunday morning after torrential downpours and high winds caused by the second storm in just over a week.

Earlier, the Ministry of Defence deployed Army personnel to assist people in West Yorkshire areas badly hit by flooding during last weekend’s Storm Ciara.

The situation was said to be “life-threatening” in South Wales, where the Met Office issued a red warning due to heavy rainfall and flooding risk until 11am on Sunday.

EA’s flood and coastal risk management executive director John Curtin said that there were a record number of flood warnings and alerts in force.

The EA said on Sunday that there had been more than 600 flood warnings and flood alerts in place across England – covering an area from Scotland’s River Tweed to the rivers of west Cornwall.

But the Government was criticised for its response, including a Tory MP telling it to “pull its finger out”.

Conservative MP Philip Davies told the Daily Telegraph on Monday that “precious little” had been done since the floods in 2015 to prevent his constituents in Shipley, West Yorkshre, being flooded again during the two most recent storms.

He added: “My constituents who were flooded were the same people who were flooded on Boxing Day 2015.

Winter weather Feb 16th 2020
Rescue operations under way as a family is taken to safety, after flooding in Nantgarw (Ben Birchall/PA)

“It’s not as if there hasn’t been enough time to do something. The Government needs to pull its finger out.

“What has been done to stop it happening again? Precious little.”

The Met Office said that winds of more than 80mph were recorded across parts of the country, with the highest measuring 91mph in Aberdaron in North Wales on Saturday.

A total of 156.2mm of rain fell at Crai Reservoir in Powys in the 48 hours from Friday to Sunday morning, it added.

The average monthly rainfall for February in Wales is 111.1mm, the Met Office added.

A Yellow weather warning for wind is in place until 11am on Monday.

Winter weather Feb 16th 2020
A half submerged ambulance in Nantgarw, Wales (Ben Birchall/PA)

Severe flood warnings were issued for the rivers Neath and Taff in South Wales, as well as the River Teme further north.

Pictures on social media show the Taff bursting its banks and flooding parts of Pontypridd, while rescue workers were using boats to get families to safety after further flooding in nearby Nantgarw.

South Wales Police said it had declared a major incident due to the flooding and severe weather.

(PA Graphics)

A man in his 60s died after being pulled from the River Tawe ear Trebanos Rugby Club, despite paramedics battling to save his life – police said he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Dyfed-Powys Police said that the man had been seen entering the River Tawe near Gorsedd Park in Ystradgynlais area, in South Wales, at about 10am on Sunday morning.

The force said the death was not being treated as suspicious or being linked to the bad weather.

An employee cleans a Poundland shop hit by flooding in Pontypridd
An employee cleans a Poundland shop hit by flooding in Pontypridd (Ben Birchall/PA)

A fire crew on its way to an emergency got stuck in the floods and had to be rescued.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service told the PA news agency that a water rescue unit had been rushing to a report of two people being swept away in the River Teme when it got submerged in flood water.

A spokesman said the crew were safe and had been pulled to safety but the vehicle was still to be recovered.

Many flights have been grounded for safety reasons, with British Airways and EasyJet confirming cancellations.

More than 230 easyJet flights in and out of the UK on Saturday were cancelled, while several sporting fixtures were also called off due to the weather.

Two bodies were pulled from rough seas on Saturday, before the worst of the storm hit.

One man was found following a huge search operation off Margate after an early-morning distress call, while another was found at Herne Bay.

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