Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Britain faces new winter storm

IN DEEP WATER:Following criticism for being slow to offer assistance to flood-hit areas, the British prime minister said he would seek financial aid and ‘expertise’ from the EU

AFP, LONDON

Yet another Atlantic storm was barreling toward Britain yesterday, threatening to dump a month’s worth of rainfall on communities already struggling to cope with the wettest winter for 250 years.

The British Met Office said a “multi-pronged attack” of wind, rain and snow would sweep across the country after making landfall in southwest England early yesterday.

The heavy rain could lead to another 1,000 houses being evacuated, the British Environment Agency told the Daily Telegraph, with downpours of up to 40mm forecast to fall in just six hours.

The agency warned of huge waves on England’s south coast as high tides combine with 128km per hour winds.

The storm comes two days after hurricane-force gales tore through the country leaving one person dead and tens of thousands without power.

The swollen River Thames was expected to reach its highest level for 60 years at the weekend, promising fresh misery for flooded towns west of London where the military is providing relief.

Energy companies on Thursday worked to get power back to more than 56,000 people still left without electricity, having restored supplies to more than 400,000 hit by outages during Wednesday’s storm.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would seek financial aid from the EU to cope with the floods, despite his promises to renegotiate London’s relationship with Brussels and hold a referendum.

“There is assistance that we are seeking from the EU,” he said. “Some of the money I’m making available for Britain’s farmers comes out of an EU budget.”

Cameron said he was also seeking “expertise” from other EU nations, including “Dutch experts on pumping and dealing with flood defences.”

His government has faced criticism for being slow to help people in flood-hit areas.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg later announced a £250,000 (US$416,000) fund to advise those hit by the floods.

The floods were also spreading, as water filled the historic crypt of Winchester Cathedral in the southern county of Hampshire.

Authorities also issued a new severe flood alert, the highest category indicating danger to life, for the River Severn in western England, bringing the total across the country to 17.

There were another 14 in Berkshire and Surrey to the west of London and two in the southwestern county of Somerset.

More than 5,800 properties have flooded since early December last year, officials said.

Emergency efforts were picking up following criticism of a sluggish response, and the military said 1,600 soldiers had been deployed with 2,000 in total available.

Train operator Network Rail said teams armed with chainsaws and pumps were on stand-by to deal with yesterday’s forecasted storm.

Britain also faces an economic battering after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the fragile recovery from recession would be affected as the bad weather hits farming and transport.

“There’s a big human cost here and I absolutely recognize that,” Carney told ITV News. “Then there’s the disruption to economic activity that we see just through transport, but farming clearly will be affected for some time, [and] other businesses.”

“It is something that will affect the near-time outlook,” Carney said.

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