UK & World News
Paterson: Flood Victims 'Right' To Be Angry
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has admitted the Government could have done more to help residents in areas affected by flooding - and that dredging of some rivers should have happened.
Heavy rain is forecast for areas already hit by floods, with some communities in Somerset - where the council has declared a "major incident" - facing a fourth week under water.
Motorists and commuters have been warned of ice, sleet and snow with temperatures expected to plummet to around freezing in some parts of the UK.
Mr Paterson has today visited Northmoor Green in Somerset, where he held crisis talks with council chiefs and farmers whose crops have been damaged by the stormy weather.
Facing tough questions from furious locals on the official response to the flooding, Mr Paterson told Sky News: "How shocking it is for people to be flooded and I really do appreciate the impact floods have had on people ... they are quite right to be angry."
He acknowledged the national guidelines on dredging were not appropriate for the Somerset Levels, large parts of which are below sea level.
In defence of the Environment Agency, Mr Paterson said it had protected a million homes and was "working incredibly hard".
He said he had asked local officials to present him with "a very clear action plan" within six weeks to enable him "to make a categoric decision once and for all" on a "long-term serious plan" for the area for the next 20 years.
Several counties including Hampshire and Dorset also remain at risk of flooding, while further snowfall is expected across Wales, Scotland and northern England.
The Environment Agency has issued more than 140 flood alerts and 10 further serious flood warnings across England and Wales.
John Osman, leader of Somerset County Council, said he was "hugely disappointed" there would be no immediate extra funding to protect flood-hit communities.
"We will continue to keep the pressure on to secure a fair deal for Somerset's residents," he said.
Bryony Sadler, of Flooding on the Somerset Levels Action Group (FLAG), dismissed Mr Paterson's visit as a "publicity stunt".
"It was a waste of taxpayers' money," the hairdresser said. "We are here, we have lived like this - like a third world country - for three weeks. We have just pushed and pushed and pushed.
"It is all just a great show for the cameras, isn't it? No-one is listening to what we want to say. It is very depressing, it is very negative."
Matthew Lay, national officer of Unison, said: "Communities up and down the country will remain in danger until the Environment Agency is given adequate resources and funding to prevent and handle disasters caused by floods."
A number of serious flood warnings are in place for parts of the South West, South East, Midlands and North East with the Environment Agency advising people in affected areas to take immediate action.
The Somerset Levels, which run south from the Mendip Hills to the Blackdown Hills, are particularly vulnerable with 31,000 acres under water, as further heavy rain falls on already saturated ground.
There is also potential for further river flooding across the South West and southern counties including parts of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex, West Berkshire and Surrey into next week.
The Environment Agency is running more than 60 pumps around the clock to drain an estimated 65 million cubic metres of floodwater from the Levels.
A temporary pontoon has been erected near the village of Langport to allow residents to get to their homes and a boat service is ferrying people to and from work and school.
As well as the flood alerts, parts of Scotland have been told to brace for strong winds gusting up to 80mph.
Nazaneen Ghafar, Sky News Weather Presenter, said: "Wintry showers are likely and the risk of some overnight snow across northern areas from Wednesday onwards.
"There will also be the continued chance of hail at times, and ice will be an increasing problem."
On Sunday, light snow flurries affected parts of northern England, including in Cumbria, where snow ploughs were used to clear sections of the A66.
A "mini tornado" was reported in parts of the Midlands and southern Britain, where trees were brought down, power supplies knocked out and outbuildings damaged.
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