UK & World News

  • 4 February 2014, 21:52

Prince Charles: Floods A Jolly Good Disaster

The Prince of Wales described the Somerset floods as a "jolly good disaster" during a visit to meet victims on Tuesday.

Prince Charles spent an hour chatting to locals in Stoke St Gregory before continuing on his tour by boat, tractor and 4x4 through the villages of Muchelney - which has been cut off by floodwater for a month - and Langport.

During the visit the Prince, who was wearing wellies, said: "There's nothing like a jolly good disaster to get people to start doing something. The tragedy is that nothing happened for so long."

His Royal Highness was handed a letter outlining the issues facing Somerset by a farmer as soon as he left his royal vehicle in Stoke St Gregory on Tuesday lunchtime.

"I've now got an idea how awful it is," he added.

Earlier in the day Prince Charles pledged £50,000 to the clear-up operation - a sum that will be matched by the Duke of Westminster.

The Prince's Countryside Fund has allocated £25,000 of the emergency funding to the Farming Help Partnership, while another £25,000 has been given to the Somerset Community Foundation.

Responding to the prince's comments on the flood response, a Number 10 spokesperson said: "The prime minister has repeatedly said the situation a number of rural communities in Somerset find themselves in is unacceptable."

"The prime minister rules nothing out," added the spokesperson.

"The situation people here have found themselves in is desperate and unacceptable and that's why it's important to do everything we can to help them."

Farmer Ray Adlam met Prince Charles during his visit and afterwards told Sky News: "I think something will happen, the publicity of him coming down here will help.

"Him coming makes it more important in the national eye, and it is a national problem.

"The pressure his presence puts on people to sort this will be a very great help."

There was no let up in the weather for the royal visit, with high winds and heavy rain greeting the Prince.

The Somerset Levels have seen some of the worst flooding in recent weeks.

More than 128,000 acres are flooded, about 40 homes are under water and approximately 200 houses are cut off. In total, roughly 350 people are affected.

The area has also seen growing anger from residents who say they have been let down by the government and the Environment Agency (EA).

The Prince's trip to Somerset came a day after the head of the EA admitted his organisation had not done enough to prevent flooding in Somerset.

Lord Smith told Sky News he regretted the agency's response. He also repeated his insistence that the dredging of rivers in Somerset was not a complete solution to the crisis.

"We probably haven't done as much as we should have done up to now and I regret that - but we've had very difficult choices to make," he said.

Many severe flood warnings remain in place for parts of Britain, including two along the River Severn.

There are also 91 flood warnings and 208 flood alerts across England and Wales. The EA has also warned of strong winds and large waves for today in coastal areas.

The agency says parts of Somerset continue to be at risk of both river and groundwater flooding.

Some homes in Somerset have been under water for more than a month, with Met Office figures showing it has had a whole winter's worth of rain in just two months.

More than 60 pumps are in use across the Levels, according to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

The combined pumping of one million tonnes of water per day is enough to fill 400 Olympic swimming pools.

Meanwhile, a cheaper flood helpline has been opened after an intervention from David Cameron.

The new Floodline number - 0345 9881188 - was released after complaints that callers were being charged up to 41p a minute to call the existing premium rate number, 0845 9881188.

The 0345 number was already operational as part of a wider government move away from 0845 numbers, but the EA said it was not promoting it "proactively" to avoid confusion.

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