Environment News Service (ENS)

British Prime Minister Blames Floods on Climate Change


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

LONDON, UK, July 24, 2007 (ENS) - The sun is forecast to shine across much of England Wednesday, illuminating flood waters that have risen to 60 year highs. Prime Minister Gordon Brown blamed climate change for the torrential rains that pounded the British Isles on Friday and through the weekend, inundating vast stretches of southwest England and leaving more than 50,000 homes without power.

In Gloucestershire, up to 350,000 people had no drinking water Monday after a water treatment plant in in the city of Tewkesbury was flooded, local police authorities said.

About 250 water tankers were deployed to bring drinking water to Gloucester residents, who had stormed local markets in a panic to buy bottled water.

Bottled water now is being distributed to residents and officials predict it will be seven to 14 days before water services are restored.

Prime Minister Brown, who visited Gloucester Monday, said funds to tackle the crisis would rise to 800 million pounds (US$1.6 billion).

Brown said the heavy rains and floods in Britain over the past month are related to climate change. 'Like every advanced industrialized country, we are coming to terms with the issues surrounding climate change,' he said.

'We're looking, if you like, at 21st Century extreme weather conditions,' he said.

Responding to criticism that flood defenses are inadequate, Brown said, 'We're going to have to look at how the infrastructure and how the drainage, how also the location of certain utilities is in order with the conditions we now face in the 21st Century.'

Floodwaters cover much of Gloucestershire. (Photo courtesy Gloucestireshire Constabulary) 
A major power outage was narrowly averted late Monday night when floodwaters lapping around Gloucestershire's Walham Substation were held back by temporary flood barriers brought in and erected by emergency services personnel and the military.

Gloucestershire Chief Constable Dr. Tim Brain told reporters today, 'The critical situation at the Walham substation was held overnight, that crisis was past just before midnight, and it has continued to function and supply electricity to the Gloucester area and beyond. Superhuman efforts were made by Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, the military and engineers involved to make this possible.'

'The emergency is not over, water is still high around Walham and there is a prospect of further peaks and the problem of retained water in the Severn basin is going to give problems for several days to come,' the chief constable said.

With regard to the Mythe Water Treatment works, GFRS and engineers of Severn Trent are beginning the process of inspection and making the plant safe,' he said. 'This will be a two day process and the current prognosis of water supplies returning remains seven to 14 days.'

The Environment Agency said river levels on the Severn in Gloucester have reached their peak. The agency says water levels on the Thames in Oxford and Reading are not expected to peak until Wednesday morning.

Severe flood warnings remain in place for the British Midlands, and the counties of Oxfordshire and Befordshire.

Phil Rothwell, Environment Agency Head of Flood Risk Policy, warned, 'Flash flooding in recent days and weeks has been very sudden and has often occurred in areas where there were previously few flooding incidents in living memory. Therefore, everyone should stay fully aware of the weather situation. Where there is the danger of rivers rising people should check for flood warnings in their area.'

Lessons 'will be learnt' from the 'extreme weather' that has affected large parts of England this month, Prime Minister Brown said today.

Brown said, 'I have just come from a meeting of the emergency committee COBRA and the Cabinet where we have heard at first hand not only of the heroic efforts of the emergency services, our armed forces and communities themselves who are battling the flood waters, but also of their success in restoring power to some of the homes without it and preventing others from losing their electricity supply. We will continue to do all we can to help those affected.'

The prime minister praised beleaguered flood victims for their courage and selflessness.

'In response to the unprecedented floods and their aftermath we have seen again and again what we witnessed a week or two ago throughout Yorkshire and Humberside: neighbor helping neighbor; young helping old; those with transport helping those who are stranded; and doing so selflessly.'

The Prime Minister's Spokesman said today that the government is considering applying to the European Union for financial assistance for flood recovery.

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