Wainfleet flooding: Environment Agency defends response

Aerial view of town Image copyright PA
Image caption The town of Wainfleet in Lincolnshire was flooded on Wednesday last week

The Environment Agency's chief executive has defended its response to flooding in a Lincolnshire town.

More than 580 homes in the Wainfleet area were evacuated after the River Steeping burst its banks last Wednesday.

The agency has been criticised for taking too long to stop the breach, while some have claimed they were not warned of the flooding.

Sir James Bevan said the agency acted "very quickly".

The river burst its banks after the equivalent of about two months' rain fell between Monday and Wednesday last week, flooding nearly 130 properties in the town.

"We knew this breach had occurred at about 3pm on the Wednesday and within minutes we had put warnings out," Sir James said.

"I think there will always be things you can do better..., but looking at the record of what we did I am satisfied we moved very quickly."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The RAF dropped 340 tonnes of ballast
Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption Engineers are now working on a more permanent solution to the breach in the River Steeping

Tracy Merton, who owns a caravan park by the river in nearby Thorpe St Peter, said although she was legally obliged to sign up for flood alerts she did not receive a warning.

"We were well aware from watching the news that there was going to be some sort of flooding but we didn't receive anything," she said.

After the river burst its banks, Sir James said, "the first requirement was to address the breach and a request was made for military assistance".

"That happened very quickly," he said.

After a state of emergency was declared on the Thursday the RAF started an operation to drop 340 tonnes of ballast and sand.

Tony Willoughby, who runs a nearby caravan park, said the breach should have been dealt with more quickly.

"I've been in farming all my life and I can't believe they didn't just get some diggers there and fill it up with stone," he said.

Image caption Mr Willoughby's caravan park was hit by the floods with people evacuated and fish flushed from the site's lakes

The Environment Agency is now looking to insert steel pilings into the river embankment in a bid to strengthen it.

Sir James said the workers and materials were "ready to go", but it could take a while due to the ground being "so sodden".

"What we are doing right now is checking the repair and pumping more water away from Wainfleet," he added.

A public meeting is due to take place at the Coronation Hall in Wainfleet later.

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