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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 16:06 GMT


UK

Watchdog promises faster flood warnings

The worst floods ever in some areas - but warnings could have been better

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

The Environment Agency is stepping up its flood warning system following the disastrous floods last Easter, described in some areas as the worst ever recorded.

Five people died in the floods, which caused havoc in parts of eastern England, the Midlands and Wales.

The agency was widely criticised afterwards, and was judged by an independent review team to have shown "poor overall performance".

The agency's director of operations, Archie Robertson, admitted: "Our actions did not always meet our own standards or satisfy the public and others."

Five MPs called for the resignation of the agency's chairman, Lord de Ramsey.

Other work may suffer

Now the agency has announced a £7m a year action plan designed to speed up flood warning systems.

Lord de Ramsey said the money would have to be found.

If it could not be, he said, then "improvements to flood warning systems will be at the expense of other flood defence work".

The changes to be made under the action plan will include:

  • better flood forecasting based on improved weather information

  • faster mapping of flood risk areas to provide the best assessment by September 1999

  • identifying properties in high-risk areas by their postcodes

  • a review of the present system of "amber" and "red" alert warnings, which many people find hard to understand

  • a clear statement of the responsibilities of all organisations involved in flood emergencies

  • regular testing of emergency procedures.


[ image: Areas at risk of flooding will be identified]
Areas at risk of flooding will be identified
The Environment Agency will also review its management responsibilities and training, so as to ensure consistent flood warning and forecasting across England and Wales.

But Lord de Ramsey said rivers could not be prevented from flooding, and there would always be circumstances in which no advance warning might be possible.

"With winter upon us", he said, "we are stepping up efforts to alert people to the risk of flooding in general.

"We have begun a programme to check the condition of all flood defences around the country, including those which we do not own.

"And we remain as determined as ever to prevent the unwise spread of development in flood risk areas."



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25 Nov 98†|†UK
Flood report condemns agency

11 Apr 98†|†UK
Body of third flood victim found





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Middlesex University Flood Hazard Research Centre


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