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Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK


UK

Homes warned of flood risks

There may be trouble ahead . . . and the Environment Agency wants to spread the word

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

A national advertising campaign will for the first time highlight the risk posed by flooding.

The UK Environment Agency, the government body responsible for flood warning in England and Wales, will spend £2m on the campaign, which includes local radio advertisements and 2,000 outdoor poster sites in high-risk areas.


The BBC's Robert Piggott: "Too many properties are being built in flood zones"
Homes and businesses at risk will also receive information packs and flood kit bags - plastic bags containing more information, which can also be used for storing valuable documents in a flood.

New warning service

The agency is also launching a new telephone information service for people to ring. Called Floodline, it will offer advice on home protection, and details of flood warnings in force in the caller's area.


[ image: Loss and damge from floods can be devastating]
Loss and damge from floods can be devastating
The agency already offers a service to people living in flood risk areas, which sends them an automatic voice message detailing new flood warnings provided they have registered with it.

In flood warning areas, the agency aims to give two hours' advance notice. But it says many floods cannot be forecast.

It says 1.3 million homes and businesses in England and Wales are at risk from flooding, and for them the risk is greater than the risk of fire.

But it says only 5% of people in flood risk areas take the threat seriously enough to make any preparations to face it.

Risk increasing

In 1998, 21 people in the UK died as a result of flooding, and during October alone an area the size of North Yorkshire was flooded. Six months earlier, flooding caused losses (some uninsured) of £400m.


[ image: The risk of flooding is set to rise]
The risk of flooding is set to rise
Climate change is expected to lead to wetter winters, more severe storms, and therefore a greater flood risk for more people. By 2050 sea levels could have risen by between 10cm and 50cm, increasing the risk.

The agency's chief executive, Ed Gallagher, said there were simple ways of minimising the long-term effects of a flood.

These included having enough insurance, protecting vital documents, clearly marking where gas and electricity switches needed to be turned off, and moving valuables out of the reach of the water.

The agency was criticised by an independent inquiry for failing to give adequate warning of the April 1998 floods.

It apologised for its performance, saying: "We believe we did many things well, but we acknowledge that our actions did not always meet our own standards or satisfy the public or others."





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Internet Links


UK Environment Agency

BBC Weather Online

Middlesex University Flood Hazard Research Centre

UK Meteorologocal Office


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