Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Flood victims face Christmas away

Flooding near Hull
The floods caused damage to thousands of homes

Hundreds of people displaced by last year's flooding across England are facing a second Christmas living in temporary accommodation.

Of the 17,000 families who had to leave their homes because of the floods, about 1,000 are currently still out of their own homes or living upstairs.

However, that figure is being reduced and could be halved by Christmas.

Last year saw the wettest summer since records began in 1766, leading to widespread damage to 48,000 homes.

There were also 9,000 businesses affected, causing damage that would cost 3.1bn to repair and prompting more than 180,000 insurance claims.

There are now about 100 families returning home each week. All council and housing association tenants across the country are back in their homes.

Floods Recovery Minister John Healey has expressed concern about those families facing a second Christmas living in caravans while their homes are repaired.

I am especially concerned about families facing a second Christmas in caravans
John Healey, Floods Recovery Minister

He is linking up with council leaders in Hull, East Riding and Tewkesbury, which were among the worst affected areas, to offer further support to these families.

There are currently 1,045 families still living away from their flood-damaged homes in England - 303 of those are in Hull, 245 in East Riding and 34 in Tewkesbury.

Of those, 118 are living wholly or partially in caravans.

The package of support being offered includes a personal visit from a council official to explain what help is available, caravan safety checks, advice on dealing with rogue builders and up to 200 per family towards energy costs during the winter.

The three councils have also said they will offer children affected by the floods a "Santa package" - free show tickets and entry to sports centres or events.

Study begins

Mr Healey said: "While over 16,000 families are now back home, and 100 are returning each week, I want those who are not to know that they are not forgotten and not on their own.

"I am especially concerned about families facing a second Christmas in caravans."

Mr Healey has also pledged to personally take up any insurance problems these families have, directly with industry chiefs.

He said: "We must learn from this experience and plan for future events. My priority is getting people back in their homes and companies back in business as quickly as possible.

"One of the main reasons for delays has been the time it has taken for properties to dry out.

"So I have kicked off a study to bring together everything known about how to quickly dry out flooded buildings.

"There is a lot of experience and good practice, but it is right we see if more can be done to accelerate this process."

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