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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Deputy PM, John Prescott, has called for a new national emergency plan"
 real 56k

The BBC's Richard Bilton in Worcester
"Throughout the day the rescues never stopped"
 real 56k

The BBC's Robert Hall
"Villagers found help from international rescue"
 real 56k

Friday, 3 November, 2000, 00:35 GMT
Blair pledges cash to fight floods
Bewdley familly being evacuated by emergency services
A Bewdley family are evacuated from their home
Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised financial help for towns and regions battling to defend themselves from flooding.

He said there would be money to help with measures such as building flood defences, but stressed there was a limit to what could be done financially.

Tony Blair in Bewdley
Tony Blair hears how Bewdley is suffering
It was important to deal with the long-term issues - such as climate change - being blamed for the weather, he said.

Mr Blair was speaking during a tour of some of the areas which are suffering the most from the worst floods to hit Britain in 50 years.

Conditions are set to get worse before they improve, with more heavy downpours predicted.

The Environment Agency says almost all rivers and streams are at full capacity, and 11 severe flood warnings have been issued on the River Severn and four other rivers in Yorkshire and Wales.

'Appalling'

The first stop on Mr Blair's tour on Thursday was Bewdley, in Worcestershire, where many residents have been forced to evacuate their homes.

"The flooding is appalling. It is a very serious problem for people who have had to be moved out of their homes and businesses," he said.

"We've got to put in the right flood defences, which in fact, ironically, here are starting next week.

Flooding
For some areas the worst is yet to come
"In the longer term we've got to do more to combat the reasons why the climate's changing, not just here but in Europe and the rest of the world at the moment.

"I think the world, for far too long, has simply treated this issue of climate change as not sufficiently important - well that's no longer an option.

"There's going to be a limit to what we can do financially, and what's important is therefore to make sure we deal with the long-term issues as well."

Mr Blair's helicopter tour took him on to Shrewsbury, where he repeated his concerns about how to combat future flooding, before moving on to visit York.

"We are investing a very great deal already in flood protection - we've increased the budget of the Environment Agency, but I think frankly we're going to have to do more," he said.

"These are the worst floods since 1947 but they are only two years after previously very bad floods."

Meeting planned

On Thursday evening, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott visited the headquarters of the Environment Agency to assess what the government could do to help with the current flooding crisis.

The visit came ahead of a meeting with ministers from key government departments, to assess whether enough is being done to help the agency and local authorities during the floods.


Pet Rescue: A cat is taken from a flooded house near York
Mr Prescott said: "We have to take a long-term view that things are changing in our weather.

"These incidents of weather extremities are occuring more frequently ... it's a global problem and it needs a global solution."

The Environment Agency's chairman, Sir John Harman, had earlier visited Bewdley to see the damage for himself.

From Yorkshire to Kent, homes were still being evacuated on Thursday as flood waters showed no sign of diminishing, despite the respite of a few rainless hours overnight.

As well as the severe flood warnings, the Environment Agency has issued a severe weather warning for south-west England and Wales.

"The situation will be much the same as overnight," said a spokeswoman.

"Heavy rain is forecast over the south-west and Wales, and the forecasts through to the weekend do not look particularly good."

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | UK
Animals killed in floods
01 Nov 00 | UK
Tap water health alert
31 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Prescott pledges to learn storm lessons
30 Oct 00 | Business
Insurers face 200m storm damage bill
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