Britons rescued as flood crisis deepens

2014-02-06 16:59
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Storms wreak havoc in UK, France, Spain

Stormy weather has left homes without power, battered seafronts and damaged homes.

London - Britain was lashed by more heavy rain Thursday as firefighters rescued people from flooded homes and Prime Minister David Cameron scrambled to deal with the crisis.

The deluge continued a day after storms washed away a key coastal railway line, breached sea defences and sparked new flood warnings.

Forecasters warned that a "conveyor belt of storms" was due to sweep in from the Atlantic, adding to a winter of weather chaos that has seen the wettest January for a century in parts of England.

Firefighters in the stricken southwestern counties of Somerset and Devon rescued 14 people from homes and stranded vehicles late Wednesday and early on Thursday.

Rescuers in inflatable boats rescued four adults and three children from one house after a river burst its banks in Stoke St Gregory, a village that heir to the throne Prince Charles visited on Tuesday, a fire brigade spokesperson said.

British authorities issued two severe flood warnings signifying a danger to life for the Somerset Levels, the worst-hit area, where one village has been cut off from the world for a month.

The government's emergency Cobra committee was due to meet again on Thursday while communities minister Eric Pickles was due to address parliament on the issue.

Cameron personally took charge of the government's response on Wednesday after facing a growing tide of criticism for being too slow to aid stricken communities.

He announced an additional €120m for flood repairs and maintenance over the coming year.

Prince Charles himself said on his trip to the region that the "tragedy is that nothing happened for so long".

Wettest January

But the damage has kept coming, with the main train service connecting Devon and the county of Cornwall with the rest of Britain being suspended after part of the sea wall under the coastal railway line collapsed.

Pete Fox from the Environment Agency told the BBC that Britain faces a "conveyor belt of storms" that makes it difficult to get in to repair what has already been damaged.

In a further sign of chaos, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, the minister supposed to be dealing with the crisis, had to take several days off to have an operation for a detached retina.

Paterson was widely mocked for forgetting to bring his Wellington boots with him when he toured sodden Somerset last week, turning up instead in shiny black shoes.

Britain has been lashed by storms and heavy rain throughout the winter with parts of southern England seeing the wettest January since records began in 1910.

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