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SHAKE AND BLOW
Britain gets respite from flooding crisis
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Feb 16, 2014


Britain braces for more floods after violent storm
London (AFP) Feb 16, 2014 - Sodden communities along the River Thames braced for more floods on Sunday, as Britain counted the cost of a storm that claimed several lives and left tens of thousands of homes without power.

At least three people were killed in separate incidents in Ireland, Britain and the English Channel after violent winds and heavy rain swept in from the Atlantic on Friday.

Pulling down power lines and disrupting transport networks across the region, the storm brought fresh misery to flood-hit communities in Britain, parts of which are suffering their wettest start to the year for 250 years.

Prime Minister David Cameron warned on Saturday that the worst was not yet over as he visited the Thames-side village of Chertsey, west of London, to see how the military were helping bolster flood defences.

"What we do in the next 24 hours is vital because tragically the river levels will rise again. So every sand bag delivered, every house helped, every flood barrier put in place can make a big difference," Cameron said.

More than 3,000 members of the military are involved in the flood relief effort, according to the defence ministry, as the government seeks to counter criticism that it was too slow to respond to the crisis.

Fourteen severe flood alerts warning of a risk to life were in place along the River Thames on Saturday night, with another two issued for the southwest of England, which has borne the brunt of two months of heavy rain.

In a newspaper interview published on Sunday, opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband blamed climate change for the run of bad weather, and urged government ministers to treat global warming as a "national security issue".

Cameron said last month that "I very much suspect" there is a link but said that either way, there should be more investment in flood defences.

- Violent storm claims lives -

Friday's violent storm pulled up trees, sent roofs flying off buildings, slammed waves into the coast and opened up a 20-foot (six-metre) sink hole in a quiet street in Hemel Hempstead, north of London.

A 49-year-old taxi driver with three children was killed when a building collapsed onto her parked car in the centre of London, and her two passengers were injured, police said.

Out on the English Channel, an 85-year-old man died after high winds sent a "freak wave" smashing through a window of a cruise ship off the coast of north-west France, the ship's operator said.

Massive waves were also whipped up in Portugal, flooding several seaside establishments, while heavy snow on the island of Madeira left passengers trapped in their cars.

Star footballer Cristiano Ronaldo said on his Facebook page he had been unable to go home to wind-battered Madeira, where he was due to take his Ballon d'Or trophy to a local museum.

Some 70,000 French homes were left without power as meteorologists registered winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour (90 miles per hour), though most of these had been reconnected by Saturday night.

Meanwhile in Ireland, a 65-year-old man working for telecoms firm Eircom was killed in Cork on Saturday when he was trying to erect a fallen telephone pole which fell on his head, the RTE state broadcaster said.

"Tragically these weather events have been hitting community and after community and doing that week after week," a wind-swept Cameron said in Chertsey.

Britain's flooding crisis eased on Sunday with the arrival of drier weather following a series of fierce storms, while the government pledged to have the army conduct a rapid inspection of flood defences.

The country is counting the cost of storms that have claimed several lives and left tens of thousands of homes without power.

Despite the drier weather conditions, swathes of Britain remain on high alert as people struggle to protect homes from floodwaters, which are still expected to rise.

Britain's Environment Agency (EA) has 16 severe flood warnings in place for the south west and the Thames Valley, with almost 150 flood warnings and 230 flood alerts.

"The response that we are delivering is a proper response... but we are dealing with an extraordinary set of weather events. It has taken some time to mobilise the resources," Defence Minister Philip Hammond told the BBC on Sunday.

He admitted that the government could have called on the army to assist much earlier.

Hammond said more than 3,000 troops were currently deployed to help, with another 5,000 on standby.

"We offered troops quite a long while ago to civil authorities who wanted them," he added.

"What we have done over the last ten days is push them a bit more aggressively, those civil authorities."

He added that the Royal Engineers would be involved to do a "very rapid inspection of all the nation's flood defences".

"We are going to try and do in five weeks what would be a two-year programme of inspection, just to assess the level of damage.

"This series of weather events over the last two months has caused some quite serious damage to our infrastructure -- flood defences, rail infrastructure, road infrastructure -- and we have got to assess that."

"There clearly needs to be continued defences in flood defences.

"Further targeted investment mean that we will become more and more resilient as events like this unfortunately probably will become more and more common."

- Cameron thanks 'hard work' -

Prime Minister David Cameron hosted another meeting of Cobra, the government's emergency response committee, on Sunday and warned of more potential flooding.

"Some rain is expected at times next week," he said. "This additional rainfall will add to high groundwater levels and will impact slow feeding rivers over the days ahead.

"The recent flooding has been a tragedy for all those affected and my thoughts are with them.

"Extensive efforts to protect and repair properties and infrastructure are ongoing by many thousands of people among agencies, the military and the emergency services," he added. "I speak for us all when I thank them profusely for their hard work."

In a newspaper interview published on Sunday, opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband blamed climate change for the run of bad weather, and urged government ministers to treat global warming as a "national security issue".

Hammond added on Sunday that "climate change is clearly happening, it's clearly a factor in the weather patterns that we are seeing and that is why we are investing significant amounts of money in increasing our flood resilience in the UK."

At least three people were killed in separate incidents in Ireland, Britain and the English Channel after violent winds and heavy rain swept in from the Atlantic on Friday.

Pulling down power lines and disrupting transport networks across the region, the storm brought fresh misery to flood-hit communities in Britain, parts of which are suffering their wettest start to the year for 250 years.

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SHAKE AND BLOW
Not yet tame: River Thames shows its power
London (AFP) Feb 12, 2014
Its waters tamed by locks and barriers, the River Thames embodies a particular image of English life: of village greens, picturesque houses, riverside pubs and rowing. But that image was shattered this week when heavy rain caused the Thames to burst its banks, flooding hundreds of homes in the affluent counties to the west of London - a sharp reminder of the power of nature. "It's norma ... read more


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