UK & World News

  • 31 January 2014, 15:15

Prince Charles To Visit Flood-Hit Communities

Prince Charles will visit flood-stricken communities in the South West to see for himself how they are coping with the crisis, it has been announced.

The Prince will also meet emergency services involved in the relief effort and residents who remain trapped in villages cut off by water after the wettest January on record.

The trip on Tuesday had been planned in advance of the floods for Charles to learn how communities coped with similar problems in 2012.

The Prince will visit Stoke St Gregory and Muchelney where he will talk to residents, farmers and businesses, some who have criticised the government and the Environment Agency for what they say is a lack of action to prevent the floods.

Military personnel are currently on standby to move in to flood-hit Somerset, with further heavy rain and high tides due to hit parts of the UK in the next 48 hours.

An amber severe weather warning has been issued by the Met Office for southwest England on Friday, parts of which have been flooded for more than a month.

The public has been warned of significant disruption from flooding across the Somerset Levels.

Northern Ireland, Wales, the South East have yellow weather warnings for rain and Northern Ireland is also expected to be affected by strong gales into the weekend.

Military officials were on the ground in Somerset on Thursday to draw up contingency plans amid fears of further flooding.

Pat Flaherty, deputy chief executive of Somerset County Council, said: "With potential for high winds and high tides and more rain... falling on an already soaked catchment we have potential for further flooding over the weekend.

"And with that, ongoing flooding for a number of weeks to come.

"We're still working very closely with the military who remain in Somerset, planning with us and we also have the resilience of knowing that their equipment  and personnel are ready to be mobilised should we require them."

The Ministry of Defence has tweeted that personnel involved in helping with Somerset floods are drawn from all three services, with the majority from Taunton-based 40 Commando Royal Marines.

In addition to vehicle crews, up to 100 military personnel are on stand-by for duties likely to include sandbag filling and loading.

The Red Cross has also sent the 7.5-ton Unimog, an emergency supply vehicle capable of driving through deep floodwater.

Drainage experts blame two decades of under-investment in flood defence work for turning the Levels into a "disaster area" and said it was "very, very urgent" that rivers are dredged to prevent more damage to homes, livelihoods and wildlife.

Despite coming under fire from MPs and local councils, the Environment Agency (EA) insists that increased dredging of the rivers would not have prevented the recent flooding and was "often not the best long-term or economic solution".

The EA has issued 43 flood warnings on Friday - most in the Midlands surrounding the River Severn.

Flood barriers have been put up at Frankwell in Shrewsbury and temporary defences are also set to be erected at Bewdley on the Severn.

Another 162 less severe flood alerts are also in place, mostly in the South East.

Teams have been running dozens of pumps to try and drain away an estimated 1.5 million ton of water in Somerset - the equivalent of 600 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

University students in Aberystwyth, Wales, have also been told to leave the seaside resort over fears high tides could hit the town for the second time in a month.

Coastal areas in the South West, parts of the South East, North West, Yorkshire and Hull could also be affected by high tides, rain and strong winds.

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