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Tuesday, June 2, 1998 Published at 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK


Floods inquiry attacks Environment Agency

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes and five died in the Easter floods

People whose homes were ruined in the Easter floods should have been given more warning by the authorities, according to an independent report.

The Environment Agency has also been criticised over its lack of communication with the emergency services. Some of those who were flooded are now demanding compensation.

BBC News' John McIntyre on Northants residents' anger at the lack of readiness for the Easter floods
The agency was criticised by people for not warning them about heavy rain over Easter which resulted in the worst floods England and Wales have witnessed for 150 years.

The flooding was particularly severe in parts of the Midlands and Wales.

[ image: The bill for flood damage could cost £1.5bn]
The bill for flood damage could cost £1.5bn
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell, a flood expert, said: "I would say the Enviroment Agency was caught by surprise at Easter, and there are very serious lessons to be learned."

The Severn, Trent and Wye were among rivers which burst their banks as water came down from the hills.

Flood expert Prof Edmund Penning-Rowsell interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme
An elderly woman was found dead inside a flooded house in Northampton and the body of a middle-aged man was recovered from a caravan site that flooded near Evesham in Hereford.

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes after the equivalent of one month's rain fell in 24 hours.

Up to 30 rivers were put on red flood warnings, while 40 had amber warnings, mainly across central and eastern England.

Police declared the flooding to be a "major emergency" as the rain was swiftly followed by snow and wintry showers. There were even been a number of tornadoes.

[ image: Soldiers were called in to help secure homes]
Soldiers were called in to help secure homes
At the time, the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott promised government aid for people affected by the floods in central England as insurance bills threatened to reach up to £1.5bn.

Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment,Transport and the Regions, Gillian Shephard has demanded government assurances following the publication of the report into the handling of the Easter floods.

She said the report showed "an inadequate and failed response on the part of the agency," which was said to have an overcomplicated set of procedures, some staff who were unaware of their roles and failure to provide timely warnings.

"Five people died as a consequence of the flooding and the lives of thousands of other people have been disrupted as a result of the failure to identify the danger," said Mrs Shephard.

"I want assurances from the government that they are going to act on this report."

At one point the flooding became so severe that soldiers were called back from their Easter leave to help the emergency services deal with the heavy flooding in the Midlands area.

Many people were put up in emergency centres after being forced out of their homes.

Police arrested a number of looters who were taking advantage of homes that had been evacuated in Northampton during the chaos.

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13 Apr 98 | oldBusiness
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