UK & World News
Red Cross Brings Somerset Flood Relief
Red Cross volunteers have been providing support and winter fuel to residents left stranded by weeks of floods in the Somerset town of Muchelney.
The charity's 7.5-ton Unimog all-terrain vehicle is part of a multi-agency relief effort to deliver essential supplies to Somerset communities worst hit by the disaster.
The monster-sized vehicle is usually deployed overseas for emergencies in disaster zones, where aid is urgently required in remote areas only reachable through harsh terrain.
On Thursday, it powered its way through flood water to reach stranded communities that have been isolated and without power.
Alistair Mullimeux, chair of the Muchelney parish, said: "We've been warm and dry as we haven't had water in our house but it's important to see the Red Cross. They're providing a fantastic service.
"What we really appreciate is the communication. The Government was slow to respond at first, we had a boat here in about a week but then it's been another three weeks until today."
Cheryl Murray, of the Red Cross, said: "We visited a lady yesterday who has only been able to heat the house for one hour per day to conserve fuel.
"People have been able to maintain stocks of food with the boat service but it's heavy items like wood that people need right now."
As Cheryl dropped off logs in the village, Muchelney resident Jill de Monceaux said: "You've saved my life. I can't tell you how important this is for us."
With winter not yet over, communities in Somerset are bracing themselves for the possibility of more rain and floods in the weeks to come.
The latest Met Office weather statistics reveal south east and central southern England had its wettest January since records began in 1910, with some areas experiencing twice the average amount of rain for the month.
Taken together, all parts of the UK have received 35% more than the long-term average rainfall of 164.6mm.
Forecasters say an unusual predominance of west and south-west winds bringing mild air across the Atlantic to the UK along with unsettled, stormy conditions are responsible.
As the relief effort got under way in Somerset, the political fallout of the flooding crisis continued.
The Environment Agency and the government have come under fire for not doing enough to shore up flood defences and prepare embattled communities in the southwest.
Somerset County Council welcomed David Cameron's comments in Parliament on Wednesday that dredging rivers prone to flooding will commence "as soon as it is practical".
Rivers are dredged using machines or barges to suck-up silt from the river to make them deeper and therefore less likely to burst their banks following heavy rain.
There has been concern that a decision by the Environment Agency to stop dredging local rivers has created a 25-mile square "disaster area" in Somerset.
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