UK & World News

  • 1 February 2014, 23:25

Waves Batter Coastline Amid Wind And Floods

Heavy rains, large waves and strong winds wreaked havoc in Britain and Ireland today, cancelling flights and sparking a "significant risk to life" warning.

The worst of the weather was battering the Republic of Ireland but gusts were expected to pick up across Wales and southern parts of England during the day.

The Environment Agency warned "extraordinary measures" may be taken in Gloucestershire today to keep back tidal and river floods.

It issued severe flood warnings - meaning there is an imminent danger to life - for several parts of the county and the coasts of Cornwall and north Devon.

Further warnings are in place along the length of the River Severn amid fears it could burst its banks. It also warned the risk of flooding could continue into next week.

Flood barriers have already been installed in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and Bewdley, Worcestershire, as the water level rises.

A statement issued by the agency said: "Gales, large waves and high tides present a danger to life and are expected to result in overtopping of sea walls and defences causing flooding to properties along with disruption to travel.

"The risk of flooding will continue into next week, with the Met Office forecasting further heavy rainfall across southern England and Wales.

"This rain will fall in areas where ground water and river levels are already high, bringing an ongoing risk of flooding."

Lesser warnings remain in place for many parts of Britain, including the already blighted Somerset Levels and west Wales, where 49 flood warnings and 15 alerts have been issued this morning.

Tests for Sky News have found floodwater in Somerset, where the floods have persisted for weeks, contains 60 times the amount of safe bacteria for agricultural water.

In the Republic of Ireland, there were reports of severe flooding in Limerick City with the river Shannon bursting its banks.

With gusts of almost 80mph in coastal areas of the country, several parts were hit by flooding and at one stage 5,500 homes and properties were left without power, 4,000 of them in Ennis, Co Clare.

Flights out of Dublin airport were affected because of the gales force winds. Flights to Manchester, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Cardiff, Paris and Madrid had to be cancelled.

Isabel Webster, reporting from the River Parrett in Burrowbridge, Somerset, tweeted at 8.30am: "High tide in Burrowbridge this morning. It's just touching the sand bags."

Minutes later she tweeted: "Water is seeping through giant sandbags onto road beyond at high tide here in Burrowbridge."

Amid fears the bags would not hold back the water an emergency team from the Environment Agency, rushed to the scene to bolster the defences.

There are fears that flooding in the area will worsen as river levels rise over the coming hours and tomorrow.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has admitted a "long-term" action plan is needed to reduce the devastating impact of flooding on communities.

He insisted the Government was doing "everything we can to help people recover as quickly as possible".

However, he admitted there was work to do, especially in Somerset, where some residents remain cut off after the wettest January on record.

In a letter to the Western Daily Press, Mr Cameron said: "Like everybody across the country I feel enormous sympathy for the people who live on the Somerset Levels and are suffering from the devastating impact of the flooding."

He added: "We need long-term action to reduce the risk of this happening again. That is why (Environment Secretary) Owen Paterson is working with the Environment Agency (EA) and local agencies in Somerset to deliver a robust plan for the next 20 years."

The Prime Minister said plans to dredge rivers will begin "as soon it is safe to do so" and the EA will spend "the coming months improving river flows" across the south west, dredging and weed clearance.

Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis has claimed a lack of river dredging for the past 40 years has worsened the impact of the flooding in Somerset.

"The EA decided to abandon the dredging for the sake of the river bank and they sold the wonderful dredging machines for scrap," said the dairy farmer.

"Can you believe it? That was 40 years ago. This (flooding) is the result of that decision."

In the Republic of Ireland, Munster, Leinster, Connacht, Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan were told to prepare for possible flooding, while communities in west Wales and along the south coast from Dorset to Kent were also put on alert.

Hundreds of university students in Aberystwyth were told to leave accommodation on the town's seafront amid fears high tides could hit the town for the second time in a month.

Meanwhile, at the Anchor Bleu pub in Bosham, West Sussex, defiant customers were pictured eating their lunches and supping their beers as water swashed about their feet. 

Wintry weather swept across northern areas on Friday, closing the Lake District's exposed Kirkstone Pass and causing hazardous driving conditions elsewhere.

The latest forecasts will be met with trepidation in flood-stricken communities in Somerset, where the military is on standby to help with the relief effort.

On Tuesday, Prince Charles will meet people who remain cut off by water after the wettest January on record.

Some residents have criticised the Government and the Environment Agency for what they say is a lack of action to prevent the floods.

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