UK storms: Giant waves hit amid fresh flooding fears

  • 7 January 2014
  • From the section UK
Media captionBBC science editor David Shukman : ''The barrage of bad highly unusual''

Huge waves have battered southern and western coasts of the UK, as forecasters warn exposed areas could see a fresh round of flooding.

Waves of up to 27ft (8m) were recorded off Land's End, Cornwall.

The environment secretary said seven people had died and 1,700 homes had been flooded in England due to storms and flooding in December and January.

There are currently three severe flood warnings in place in England and travel by road and rail is being hit.

In Aberystwyth, all buildings along the promenade have been evacuated after Natural Resources Wales (NRW) warned of an "exceptional" wave swell expected later.

Woman rescued

Western and southern areas have borne the brunt of the latest severe weather, with flooding leaving some villages in Somerset cut off, properties flooded in Cornwall, rivers bursting their banks in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, and residents forced from their homes in the centre of Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The Environment Agency has warned communities in Dorset, Oxfordshire, south Wiltshire, Hampshire and along the Thames to "remain prepared" for more flooding on Monday and the rest of the week.


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Image caption A boat wreck has been exposed in Newquay harbour

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There are currently three severe flood warnings for parts of Dorset - indicating danger to life and property - for the Lower Stour, Chiswell and Preston Beach near Weymouth.

There are also scores of lower-level flood warnings and alerts in force in England and Wales, as well as several in Scotland.

Image caption The south and west coasts would see "colossal waves" like these at Porthcawl, near Bridgend, say forecasters
Image caption Waves crashed on to the promenade in Blackpool
Image caption Some parts of England - including Bury in West Sussex - are already under water, with more flooding expected
Image caption One woman was rescued after 13 days surrounded by floodwater
Image caption There was flooding in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, as rivers burst their banks
Image caption Belfast escaped major flooding at high tide, despite residents being prepared for the worst
Image caption Drivers in many parts of the UK, including the village of Buscot Wick, near Oxford, have had to take extra precautions

The Met Office has yellow weather warnings - the lowest of its three levels - in place for wind and rain for south and south-eastern England.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson chaired a Cobra emergency meeting to ensure agencies are ready to respond, and made a statement to the Commons on the impact of the bad weather.

Mr Paterson told MPs there was "a risk of groundwater flooding in Dorset and Wiltshire for some time to come and we need to remain vigilant".

"Approximately 1,700 properties have been flooded in England so far, with Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset particularly affected, although there were also impacts in the Midlands and the North West," he said.

There had also been flooding in Northern Ireland and Scotland and 140 properties in Wales flooded, he said.

Mr Paterson said the country's electricity network operators deserved credit for reconnecting "unprecedented" number of people cut-off, but added there were "lessons to be learned about how customers are supported and informed during power cuts".

He again defended spending on flood defences, following criticism over the weekend, saying the government was spending "more than ever before".

Prof David Balmforth of the Institution of Civil Engineers told the BBC: "I don't think we've woken up to the increased threat of flooding in the future due to climate change.

"What we're seeing today as a rare event is likely to become much more frequent in the future and therefore it's important that we do continue to invest in flood defences."

Rebecca Davies, pro vice-chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said about 150 students in seafront accommodation had been moved to another campus and a further 100 in private homes have also left.

Exams scheduled for this week have been postponed until next week, she said, and students who have not yet returned to the university are being urged to stay away until the middle of the week.

The village of Muchelney, on the Somerset Levels, has been cut off for about four days.

Residents David and Tracey Bradley said they were making daily trips in their canoe to fetch essential supplies.

"It's pretty desolate really, especially for the elderly and the children," said Mrs Bradley.

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