MPs across areas worst hit by Storm Babet in England are calling for a review of Environment Agency (EA) failings after reporting that some residents received flood alerts only after their homes were flooded.
Toby Perkins, who is the Labour MP for Chesterfield, was quoted as saying that some people at Tapton Terrace in the Derbyshire town, where 83-year-old Maureen Gilbert was found dead in flood water, received a phone call from the early warning system only after their houses had been deluged.
“The EA are doing their best, but clearly they’re not up to the task. It just feels like an organisation ill equipped to deal with flooding in the 21st century with the demands that are on it,” Perkins said. “We had the EA representative on TV on Thursday night telling us not to worry. There needs to be a major review, and there needs to be a bolstering of the ability and capacity of the EA to do its job. You can’t remove the context of the level of funding cuts they’ve had in the last 13 years.”
Perkins further said that people felt “angry and let down” about the warnings they were given, and that even an extra hour’s notice could have made a significant difference to the extent of the damage.
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“I met a pub owner today who said, ‘If we’d had another hour [of notice], my business would probably be sustainable, but I now think I’m going to go bust with the amount of damage,’” he said.
In Catcliffe, South Yorkshire, where about 120 homes were flooded on Saturday after the River Rother burst its banks, the local MP, Sarah Champion was also quoted as saying that a volunteer flood warden had warned the EA that nearby flood plains were swamped with water but a flood alert was not issued for another six hours.
“He called them at about 8.30pm, but a lot of people literally didn’t know about it until the fire brigade were knocking on their door at four, five in the morning,” she said. “People feel they’ve been let down and it took their choices away. If people had been properly notified, then they could remove their cars at the very least. It’s been appalling. The area has got quite a few council bungalows that got flooded out and you could have literally been drowned in your bed.”
The environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, was also quoted to have said that one reason for the EA’s unpreparedness was the direction of the rain. She told MPs on the environment, food and rural affairs committee this week that most rain tends to come in from the west.
“This was rain coming from the other way, and we don’t have quite as much experience on that and therefore our accuracy of predicting where such heavy rain would fall was not to the same degree as if it had been otherwise, “she said.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.