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Tuesday, April 14, 1998 Published at 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK


Slow drainage hampers flood clear up

Insurers deny premiums will rise

Flooding is still causing problems for thousands of homeowners and businesses across the Midlands and East Anglia following torrential rain over the Easter holiday weekend.

[ image: The Nene still has flood warnings]
The Nene still has flood warnings
Five days after the start of the storms, drainage systems are still unable to cope with the millions of gallons of extra water.

Many buildings remain waterlogged and attempts to clear up the damage are being hampered by the slow speed at which water levels are receding. Electricity customers have been warned to have any wiring that has been submerged professionally checked.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said it will be two or three days before water levels are back to normal, provided there is no further rainfall. Water levels continue to be monitored and flood alert warnings remain in areas near the River Nene in Northamptonshire.

[ image: Monitoring is continuing]
Monitoring is continuing
In East Anglia, two 13-year-old boys are recovering after falling into a swollen river while canoeing. Police launched a major search for the youngsters after their empty boats were spotted on the River Thet at Bridgham in Norfolk, but the pair turned up after clambering to safety unaided.

The aftermath

As the cost of the flood is worked out, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has dismissed a suggestion that claims could increase premiums for all types of insurance by as much as 35%.

[ image: Businesses remain under water]
Businesses remain under water
Jeffrey Salmon, of insurance claim negotiators Salmon Assessors, said insurance firms might have to pay as much as £1.2bn-£1.5bn and as a result would raise premiums for all kind of cover, including cars, buildings and contents.

"We believe that within nine months premiums will probably go up by a maximum of 35% in order for insurers to recoup their losses quickly," he said.

However, ABI Deputy Director, Tony Baker, said the claims bill would be in the region of £300m-£500m and would not have any significant effect on premiums.

He added: "Money is set aside. That's what the industry is here for. All it may mean is that companies will probably think more carefully about property insurance in areas which regularly suffer from flooding. Even if the bill was £1.5bn, the effect on premiums would be no more than 10%."

Better protection?

[ image: The floods were caused by monsoon rains]
The floods were caused by monsoon rains
Meanwhile, questions are being asked as to whether the disaster could have been handled better.

The Oxford West and Abingdon MP, Evan Harris, is demanding an inquiry into why the Environment Agency did not give people living in the path of the floods more warning. He said property such as carpets and furniture could have been protected if house owners had been given time to move them.

Worcester residents have said that hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage caused to their homes could have been prevented. They said that sluice gates designed to stop flooding on the Beechwood Park Estate were left open over the weekend.

The Environment Agency and British Waterways have also been accused of mismanaging the flood. They have denied claims that flood gates were opened to deliberately divert water towards Kidlington to avoid flooding Oxford and to lower water levels in Banbury.

Elsewhere, council officials in Nottinghamshire defended their response to the crisis after residents in Aslockton and Whatton said not enough was done to stop water ruining their properties. Peter Chalmers, a senior officer with Rushcliffe Borough Council, said although there was an initial shortage of sandbags, the emergency operation was efficient.


[ image: The water is taking a long time to drain away]
The water is taking a long time to drain away
Concern has been raised over the effects of the flood on the elderly. The Reverend Barbara Prowse, the vicar of St James in Northampton, says although young families might be able to take the weekend's events in their stride, older people are going to be more seriously affected. She fears that given the time likely to be taken for property repairs, some of her elderly parishioners may never return home again.

Some of the flood victims in Northampton say they are worried about hygiene within their homes. One resident says he has been bitten by leeches in the devastation.

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