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Somerset floods: Council on edge as Bridgwater homes at risk
Updated 9:51am Thursday 9th January 2014 in News
This live event has finished
- Met Office expects more rain to fall tonight.
- Many roads still closed.
- Muchelney villagers still cut off
For updates from Thursday (January 9), click here.
SEDGEMOOR District Council are on edge as they prepare to evacuate up to 100 people whose homes in Westonzoyland are at risk of flooding.
The council set up a rest hall at the community centre and are on standby in case they need to start evacuating households.
Wessex 4x4 Response sent out six vehicles tonight to help the evacuation.
The only access to the area is via the A372 from Bridgwater.
A Wessex 4x4 Response spokesman said: "There are fears that the flooding might escalate to other parts of Somerset so Wessex 4x4 Response has put their members on standby.
"The heavy rain is due to hit the Wessex area again soon and volunteers from Wessex 4x4 Response will be on hand to assist if we are needed."
Wessex 4x4 Response was set up more than ten years ago and now has more than 250 volunteer drivers across Avon, Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, who are on standby to provide support when communities are hit by snow, gales, floods or other emergencies.
LANGPORT-based MEP Sir Graham Watson is backing calls to bring forward dredging funding to the area.
Sir Graham, who has lived on the Somerset Levels for nearly 20 years, says the past two years have been the worst ever for flooding.
He said: “We were told last year that the floods around Muchelney in particular were a once in a hundred year event. Yet twelve months later we have even worse flooding.
"Thousands of acres of local farmland under water has caused chaos and misery for residents and businesses.
"These increasingly frequent extreme weather events are a sign we are beginning to feel the impacts of a changing climate.
“It’s time this ended once and for all. We must return to annual dredging of the rivers and banks for the sake of people’s livelihoods and safety.
"Pressure is being brought to bear by local government, MPs and myself across Somerset to get this done.
"But let’s make sure that once the waters recede, once the clear up has taken place, we see a real, long term solution to end what is now becoming an annual tragedy.
“I also believe the time has now come for the government to devolve powers away from the Environment Agency to local drainage boards.
"This would give a local board of experts who know best the power to tackle the problem head on.
“We must also look into potential sources of EU funding for long-term infrastructure to help combat the problem at source – like dredging and flood management schemes – and structural funds and rural development funding are both possible sources of money for this.
"We also need to get our three Local Enterprise Partnerships together to apply for low-interest loans from the European Investment Bank.”
Sir Graham is also calling on the government to apply for aid from the EU’s Solidarity Fund to help rebuild communities devastated by the flooding.
The fund, which has a budget of up to £414m for 2014, was set up to provide financial assistance to EU countries struck by major disasters.
In a letter to Environment Minister Owen Paterson, Sir Graham called for urgent action to ensure the UK benefits from the fund.
The funds have been used extensively to help communities across Europe and in particular for the devastating floods along the Danube river in 2010.
Check your #flood risk and sign up for free flood warnings here: http://t.co/Rj5w285EWF Stay safe stay #floodaware #UKstorm— @EnvAgencySW 08 January 2014
The horrendous weather has severely affected business at the Rose and Crown pub in East Lyng.
Landlady Ann Basford said the pub is open but is “completely surrounded” by water, making it difficult for people to reach them.
She told the County Gazette: “The road has been closed since New Year's Eve and it has been the same since. We are open but it has been detrimental to our business."
The picture above shows a flooded field in East Lyng earlier this week.
Currently, there are 29 flood warnings in place across the South-West and 33 flood alerts.
The Environment Agency says teams are continuing to work checking and maintaining flood defences, clearing blockages in watercourses, deploying temporary defences, monitoring water levels and issuing flood warnings where necessary.
It has also responded to criticism over the lack of dredging on the Somerset Levels.
A spokesman said: "The tidal nature of the River Parrett and Tone on Somerset Levels means they rapidly silt up and de-silting would only have a limited effect in reducing flood risk in such an event as this.
"This would require significant on-going maintenance to achieve the desired channel size. However, the larger the channel the more rapid the tidal silt will accumulate.
"Work commenced in November on the de-silting of identified ‘pinch points’ starting on the River Tone and working towards the River Parrett to maintain river flow through small scale works.
"This is an interim step seeking to maximise the capacity of the existing system whilst longer term approaches are considered."
For videos and photos from the County Gazette's trip to Muchelney on Tuesday, click here.
THE Met Office is forecasting more rainfall tonight (January 8) and into Thursday in parts of the South-West.
Communities are being urged to prepare by the Environment Agency while people in parts of Somerset are still coming to terms with flooding.
Muchelney remains cut off and several roads are still closed, including:
- the A372 at Othery
- the A361 at Burrowbridge
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