New storm hits battered UK

Relief on large scale as flooding worsens and winds intensify.

Waves from the Atlantic storm crash on Porthcawl Harbour, South Wales. Photo / AP
Waves from the Atlantic storm crash on Porthcawl Harbour, South Wales. Photo / AP

Britain's emergency relief effort for floods has been labelled the biggest since the Blitz in World War II.

As thousands of soldiers and sailors worked on the streets and RAF spy planes co-ordinated the response from above, it felt like a country under siege.

Then the UK was again lashed by torrential rain, 140km/h winds and snow blizzards about Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

This weekend's Atlantic storm struck the west of the country about Cornwall early yesterday morning and shipping containers forming a temporary sea wall were breached. A further 3000 homes could be flooded with authorities issuing 24 severe "danger to life" warnings.

More than 1000 people along the River Thames, west of London, were evacuated as the river broke its banks in places.

But after more than four weeks of persistent rain the ground is unable to cope with even more water and is pushing it back through street drains, home sinks and even toilets.

The Environment Agency's head of strategy, Pete Fox, said rain on one side of the country was set to affect the other side in two or three days time, with unprecedented levels of groundwater.

"Those high levels are going to maintain for weeks and cause flood risk for weeks to come yet, into March and beyond," he said. The Met Office described the weather as a multi-pronged attack with almost every pocket of the UK experiencing downpours, gales or snow.

Severe gales, large waves and high sea levels were also threatening the Dorset coast with flooding.

More than 2200 soldiers were deployed across England including Gurkhas, Nepalese fighters, brought in to erect flood barriers west of London. Sailors from HMS Collingwood were also sandbagging properties against rising Thames tides.

Chief fire and rescue adviser Peter Holland said more than 70 per cent of England's fire and rescue services were now involved in the flood and storm relief effort. More than 5000 homes have been flooded since December. Rainfall is at the highest levels for 250 years.

- Herald on Sunday

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