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SOMERSET FLOODING: Military drafted in to help victims
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- Red Cross vehicles - used in international humanitarian disasters - deployed to Somerset.
- David Cameron pledges to dredge Rivers Tone and Parrett.
- Emergency Cobra committee meeting held by The Government yesterday.
- Environment Secretary Owen Paterson drafts in military help for flood victims.
- Hundreds of homes still underwater and cut off since Christmas.
WHAT'S your view on the flooding?
- Do you feel Somerset County Council should have called for help earlier?
- Is this the risk of living on a flood plain?
- Has a lack of dredging exacerbated the flooding problems?
Comment on this story or tweet reporter Daniel Milligan @GazetteDMilli
ONE family from Langport whose home was flooded in 2013 had only returned to live in their property for three weeks when the latest flooding hit them again.
TREVOR Stratford, chief fire officer, said they have been providing support for two-and-a-half weeks and have visited around 200 of the most isolated properties on the Somerset Levels to help people.
He said with the support of the military is in case the situation 'escalates' and will enable them to call upon two hovercrafts, ten high powered pumps, unimog 4x4 vehicles and personnel.
CLLR Flaherty said emergency services and the council took four weeks to call for help from the Government because of the 'longevity' of the situation.
He said: "Flooding has gbeen going on for a long time and we have been involved with everybody from day one to ensure support for people who are isolated and to make sure health needs of people are met.
"We would not like anyone to think this is just a reaction now."
CAROLINE Peters, who is overseeing the flooding on behalf of Avon and Somerset Police said they are confident they can cope this weekend without military help.
She said: "We have had very good advice from the Environment Agency and the Met Office and we know the weather is coming but we don't know how bad it is going to be.
"The military are a quick response should we need them but at this stage, we are confident the contingency plans that are in place we can manage this."
CLLR Flaherty said the military have been working with the council, fire and police throughout the day.
He added: "With the potential for high winds, high tides and more rains passing through and falling on an already soaked catchment, we have potential for further flooding over the weekend.
"With that in mind we are still working very closely who remain in Somerset planning with us and we also have the resilience of knowing their equipment and personnel are ready to be mobilised should we require it."
SOMERSET County Council deputy chief executive Patrick Flaherty speaks to the media at a press conference around 45 minutes ago.
Lots of national media interest for a press conference at Somerset County Council due to start in 10-15 mins http://t.co/Eu3ldMizKe— @GazetteDMilli 30 January 2014
Big #FLAG thanks to @JDOsman1 @DJAFothergill our FLAG flag flying outside Somerset County Hall cc @theemmabritton http://t.co/cXBir3sxPg— @dredgetherivers 30 January 2014
A PRESS conference will be held at County Hall in Taunton at 4pm to discuss the latest developments concerning the Somerset floods.
The meeting will see representatives from the police, fire, Somerset County Council and the Ministry of Defence.
THE Met Office have just increased their initial yellow weather warning to amber for the Somerset Levels.
The warnings are in place ahead of some stormy weather expected to hit the county from Friday to Sunday.
THE Environment Agency is urging communities to remain vigilant during this weekend’s stormy weather and high tides.
Significant disruption could occur in vulnerable areas throughout the South West.
The Environment Agency has been liaising with the Met Office to understand the impact these might have in the region.
Based on current forecasts, it is unlikely that these tides will cause any significant change to the flooding situation on the Somerset Moors and Levels. There will be no effect at Langport or further upstream.
There is a possibility that the Agency will have to review the pumping at Northmoor and Saltmoor as a result of the tides and adjust accordingly.
This might mean a reduction in the pumping for a short period but there will be no significant increase in water levels. Pumping will resume a soon as the spring tides have passed.
The agency has been working to address areas of risk that were identified in the tidal event in early January, for example sandbagging of low spots on the River Parrrett near Burrowbridge.
Catchments are already saturated and likely to respond quickly to further rainfall on Friday. Strong winds (Force 5-6) and spring tides will increase the risk of coastal flooding in parts of Dorset, North Somerset, Bristol and the north coast of Devon and Cornwall.
High tides and possible storm surges could cause wave overtopping and localised flooding of roads and properties in exposed coastal locations. The stormy weather is expected to continue into Sunday.
Groundwater levels are still rising in Dorset where further rainfall could cause additional flooding of properties and closure of roads such as the A35 at Winterbourne Abbas.
High winds combined with spring tides will result in dramatic waves.
‘Strong winds and large waves are forecast along the south and west coast of England between Friday and Sunday, coinciding with high tides,’ said Nick Lyness for the Environment Agency.
‘Impacts could include flooding affecting some coastal properties and communities. Coastal paths and promenades could be highly dangerous as there is an increased risk of being swept out to sea. People are warned to stay away from the shoreline.
‘The Environment Agency is monitoring the situation closely, working alongside partners including the Met Office and local authorities. Environment Agency teams are out on the ground making sure that flood defences are in good working order, monitoring sea levels and preparing to issue flood alerts and warnings’.
People can follow the Environment Agency flood warnings by contacting Floodline on 0845 9881188.
Most unusual starling display: “@dredgetherivers: #starlings murmurating over #SomersetFloods last night! http://t.co/7hUM6SDPrB”— @waterlevels 30 January 2014
SOLDIERS will now not be drafted in to help flood victim in Somerset, according to an anonymous tip-off to the County Gazette moments ago.
The person said military vehicles are being sent but added that they had spoken to MP Owen Paterson and troops will not be deployed.
THE Met Office are warning there will be no respite for the people of Somerset as more wet and windy weather is set to blast the county over the next three days.
Yellow weather warnings are already in place with around with up to 40mm of rain tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday coupled with gusts of wind up to 70mph on Sunday.
Surf forecast website magicseaweed has dubbed the storm HerculesTake Two - a sequel of the storm that battered the coast at the start of this month - and have said it will be as damaging, dangerous and "similarly apocalyptic".
Chief weather forecaster for the Met Office said: “Another very deep area of low pressure will spread heavy rain and strong to gale force winds across the UK during Friday.
“Following recent wet weather, the areas highlighted have saturated ground and are particularly sensitive to further heavy rain.”
The Met Office issue weather warnings for the South-West.
The Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium (IDB) has drawn up a ten-point plan to reduce the risk of prolonged and deep flooding on the Somerset Levels and Moors.
The Consortium’s chairman, Peter Maltby, said he hoped the plan would form the basis of an approach around which communities, farmers, environmental groups and local authorities could all unite in finding a way forward.
He added: “The Drainage Boards are made up of people who have a lifetime’s experience of water and drainage in Somerset, advised by engineers who know their subject inside out.
"The plan wouldn’t just see the rivers Parrett and Tone dredged, but would address the situation in the round, as the Secretary of State has requested. It sets out the common ground, on which we can all unite.”
The IDB’s 10-point plan:
• Maximise the conveyance of the lowland rivers in Somerset and maintain them.
• Construct a tidal exclusion sluice on the River Parrett as already exists on other rivers in Somerset.
• All land and property owners in Somerset to contribute to the funding of flood risk management work within their catchments.
• Increase soil infiltration and store more flood water in the upper catchments.
• Reduce urban run-off.
• Promote flood resilience and property level protection in the whole catchment.
• Promote and assist the relocation of very flood vulnerable households out of the floodplain.
• Acknowledge and provide assistance to land owners on moors identified as flood storage areas.
• Provide assistance to farmers and others to adapt their businesses in areas used for flood storage.
• Assist farms in flood storage moors to become resilient to flooding and provide assistance to relocate intensive farming activities out of the floodplain with assisted land swops.
SEDGEMOOR Labour Group leader and Bridgwater PPC Cllr Mick Lerry said: “At last the Government has recognised that something has to be done, regarding the Flooding on the levels.
"Communities have been inconvenienced since Christmas and now the Government has woken up. It must be humiliating for Owen Patterson to be overruled by the PM two days after visiting the levels.”
Flood victim Cllr Julian Taylor, who took part in the lobby of the Minister on his recent visit to the disaster zone, added: “We are told that dredging will begin as soon as it is safe to do so, but it is not just dredging, there will be a need to bring forward the Parrett Barrage as a major infrastructure project.
"Consideration of how attenuation of water can help to stop homes being flooded and proper flood defences for communities who have been affected. It is important to also realise that any major changes should not move the floodwater to urban areas, such as Bridgwater.”
THE Red Cross sent in a specialist emergency vehicle to Muchelney and surrounding villages yesterday.
The 7.5-tonne unimog truck was used as part of rescue operations in Indonesia during the 2004 tsunami but now finds itself helping bring vital supplies to the people stranded in rural Somerset.
A unimog truck, similar to the vehicle sent in by the Red Cross.
DAVID Cameron also announced dredging would take place on the Rivers Tone and Parrett 'as soon as is practical' at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday.
He told the House of Commons at Westminster: "We now need to move more rapidly to the issues like dredging which I think will help to make a long-term difference.
"It is not currently safe to dredge in the Levels. But I can confirm that dredging will start as soon as the waters have started to come down.
"The Environment Agency is pumping as much water as is possible given the capacity of the rivers around the Levels but I have ordered that further high-volume pumps from the national reserve will be made available."
All three of Somerset's MP's that attended the meeting, Jeremy Browne, Ian Liddell-Grainger and Tessa Munt were allowed to ask questions.
PM David Cameron.
CHAIRING a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee, Mr Paterson also said dredgers would be deployed.
He added: "Things are going to get worse, with rising tides and people need to be prepared.
"Specialist vehicles could help villages which have been cut off, to help people travel backwards and forwards, to get fuel and food in and out, and to help with transport from dry land."
SPECIALIST Army vehicles and troops will be drafted in to help victims of flooding in Somerset, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said last night (January 29).
After chairing the emergency Cobra committee, Mr Paterson said: "We had a very constructive discussion with Somerset County Council, who have asked for assistance."
The Somerset Levels have been badly hit by flooding with some people cut off from 'the mainland' for up to six weeks.
Villages such as Muchelney and Thorney have bore the brunt of the flooding.
Around 11,500 hectares (28,420 acres) of the Levels are flooded by an estimated 65 million cubic metres of water.
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