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Bus passengers airlifted as Scotland bears floods brunt
by Staff Writers
Dumfries, United Kingdom (AFP) Dec 30, 2015

UK flood chief feeling heat over Barbados break
London (AFP) Dec 30, 2015 - As much of northern Britain braced itself for further flooding on Wednesday, the chief of the country's Environment Agency came under fire after it emerged he had spent the last two weeks in Barbados.

Philip Dilley, 60, was set to meet with flood victims on Wednesday shortly after returning to Britain, saying that he had arrived "at the appropriate time".

The agency and the government have been criticised after thousands were forced to leave their homes during an unusually wet December, with officials blamed for failing to build adequate flood defences.

The agency has been also accused of misleading the public after releasing a statement saying that Dilley, a former business adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, was "at home with his family" during floods that hit a day after Christmas.

A tanned Dilley spoke to reporters as he arrived at his London flat on Wednesday, saying he would be "very happy to speak" with those affected.

Former engineer Dilley defended the agency's response, saying "we've been very effective and efficient in what we've been doing."

"Everybody can't be everywhere at the same time," he said of his whereabouts during the most recent wave of flooding, which struck northern England over the Christmas holidays.

"I am lucky enough to have two homes so I travel between the two," he added.

Dilley earns a reported 100,000 ($148,000, 135,000 euros) a year in his role of agency chairman, a part-time position that requires him to work two to three days a week.

Britain's newspapers on Wednesday carried photographs of what is believed to be his gated mansion in the Caribbean, which boasts a swimming pool and palm tree-filled grounds.

Severe weather warnings were in place across Northern Ireland, northern England and Scotland on Wednesday as Storm Frank barrelled in, threatening more misery for towns and villages already hit by Storms Eva and Desmond in recent weeks.

One of the warnings was for the Yorkshire town of Tadcaster, where residents were advised to evacuate on Tuesday after an 18th-century bridge collapsed into the swollen waters of the River Wharfe.

Passengers were airlifted from a bus stuck in flood waters in Scotland and thousands of homes lost electricity on Wednesday as Storm Frank lashed northern Britain with heavy rains and gales.

Residents could be seen wading through fast-flowing waters in Dumfries where the River Nith broke its banks as two men tried to pump water flowing into the World's End pub and a nearby motorway was submerged.

"We are dealing with a very serious situation," Scottish Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said as officials issued red-alert "danger to life" warnings for Dumfries and another Scottish town, Peebles.

Three hundred homes were evacuated in Peebles.

A Royal Navy helicopter also had to be deployed in Dailly in Ayrshire when a bus was stuck in the water.

"Everyone has now been removed from the bus. Twelve people were airlifted in total," a Police Scotland spokeswoman told AFP, adding that some of the passengers were treated by medical workers at the scene but none needed to go to hospital.

Fast-rising waters disrupted travel across Scotland and the high winds brought down trees and power lines.

"We're starting to get into a few of the communities that have been cut off to see what help and support we can give them," Gavin Stevenson, head of Dumfries and Galloway Council was quoted by the BBC as saying.

"But it has been unprecedented region-wide so we've really relied on our communities to look after themselves until we can get there," he said.

More than 5,500 homes in Scotland were blacked out.

Scotland was bearing the brunt of the impact from Storm Frank after weeks of flooding that have mainly affected Lancashire and Yorkshire in northern England, with water rushing into 6,700 homes.

Elsewhere in Britain on Wednesday, hundreds of people were evacuated in the town of Croston in Lancashire because of flooding, but water levels generally fell in northern England as the clean-up continued.

Flights were also disrupted at Belfast airport and a man was arrested in Yorkshire on suspicion of theft following reports of looting from flooded homes.

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