Renewed flooding hits coastal towns in Devon and Cornwall
- 3 February 2014
- From the section UK
Several coastal towns in south-west England have been hit by fresh flooding, disrupting business and severing road and rail links.
Cornwall Council said there had been "a severe amount of coastal damage" and the Environment Agency warned of extreme danger on the Cornish coast.
On the Somerset Levels, thousands of hectares of land remain under water.
Meanwhile, a cheaper helpline for flooding victims in England has been opened for calls.
The Environment Agency's new Floodline number - 0345 9881188 - was released after complaints that callers were being charged up to 41p a minute to call the existing 0845 helpline, with the money going to a private company.
David Cameron later tweeted that he was "pleased" the number had been introduced by the agency.
'Incredibly rough' seas
It comes as Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was questioned by MPs about the government's handling of the crisis.
He said the government was spending £100,000 a week extra to pump water in Somerset and that 7,500 properties had been flooded since the start of December.
Mr Paterson said 21 properties were still flooded and 200 people still cut off in the Somerset villages of Muchelney, Thorney, Oath, Stathe and North Moor.
A meeting of the government's Cobra emergency planning committee was being held on Monday afternoon - the sixth since Wednesday.
Places flooded in Cornwall included Looe, Fowey, Newlyn, Porthleven and Mevagissey. In Looe, flooding left the main street impassable. In Penzance, the seafront was closed because of the danger of debris being thrown by waves onto the road.
In Devon, parts of Kingsbridge, Salcombe and Exmouth were under water.
Severe flooding at Devonport in Plymouth meant only one of three Torpoint Ferry vessels, which connect Devon and Cornwall, was in service.
In County Antrim, Northern Ireland, powerful waves battered the coast.
'Town or country?'
The head of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith, earlier said there was "no bottomless purse" for flood defences.
The agency has been accused of failing to dredge rivers in order to protect the Somerset Levels, where villages such as Muchelney have been cut off for almost a month and about 11,500 hectares (28,420 acres) are flooded.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Lord Smith said it had to balance "tricky issues of policy and priority: town or country, front rooms or farmland?"
He later defended his agency's performance during the flooding, telling the BBC News Channel the agency had "been there on the spot, on the button doing what we need to do" in response to the "absolutely exceptional weather conditions".
The Environment Agency says it is now running pumps 24 hours a day to drain the huge amounts of water on the Somerset Levels.
But residents have continued to express frustration that the authorities have not done more to help. "They are sitting in their offices with their computers just crunching numbers," one resident of Thorney told BBC Radio 4's World at One.
"They are not out here in the real world, are they?"
Meanwhile, police have said flood-hit victims are being targeted by thieves.
About 600 gallons of domestic heating oil was reported stolen from a farm in the Somerset village of Moorland, and two fire service quad bikes were taken from nearby Burrowbridge.
Prince Charles is expected to visit parts of the Somerset Levels on Tuesday.
The Environment Agency no longer has any "danger to life" severe flood warnings in place, but there are 60 lesser flood warnings and more than 175 flood alerts across England and Wales.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has 12 flood alerts in place, meaning flooding is possible.
Along the Welsh coast, a clean-up operation is under way after strong winds and high tides over the weekend battered Aberystwyth seafront for a second time this year.
In Newgale, Pembrokeshire, police are investigating after a bus with 10 passengers was forced off the road by a large wave.
The people on board had to be rescued following the incident, which left the bus stranded in flood waters.
A search for a sea angler, missing off the Aberdeenshire coast since the early hours of Sunday, has been called off.
Rescue teams scoured the water and shoreline at Tangle-Ha, north of St Cyrus, until midnight, but no trace of the man was found.
The Met Office said more rain was on the way over the next few days, which was particularly bad news for parts of southern England.
It also said it was likely the weather would remain "very unsettled" for the rest of February.
The Environment Agency said the flood risk would continue over the next week.