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The BBC's Bob Sinkinson
"Rescuers had to act quickly to save lives"
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Friday, 13 October, 2000, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Flood towns braced for more
River Ouse in Sussex
The river Ouse in Sussex burst its banks on Thursday
The army has been called in to help one waterlogged part of Kent, as other areas of southern England start to clear up after the worst flooding in decades.

A number of towns and villages still remained on high alert at Friday lunchtime, and some residents in Kent have been evacuated.

Click here to see a map of the region.

Water levels at Lewes in East Sussex are falling slowly, but at Tonbridge in Kent the army has been called in as the situation worsens.
Severe Flood Warnings
East Sussex rivers: Ouse, Uck, Cuckmere
Kent rivers: Tiese, Beult, Bourne, Rother, Eden, Swalecliffe Brook, West Brook, Hampton and Medway
The flood relief barriers for the river Medway in Kent are full, and residents of Maidstone have been told to expect the worst as the river meets the incoming tide at 1600 BST.

The Environmental Agency (EA) has issued a severe flood warning for the area. Tonbridge and Yalding in Kent also face more flooding.

The EA had to release water from a flood barrier at Leigh into the Medway early on Friday because the river had reached capacity.

At the same time, South East Water is appealing to people in the western part of Tonbridge to restrict their use of water because they are short of supplies.

Comparatively dry weather on Friday should allow the mopping-up operation and an assessment of the damage to begin.

These are extreme situations which it is almost impossible to engineer against

Countryside Minister Elliot Morley
Some insurers believe it will prove to be the most expensive natural disaster in British history.

One of the main companies representing the public in insurance claims has said costs may run to 4bn - the biggest bill for a natural disaster the UK has seen and more than twice as much as the hurricane of 1987.

Jeffrey Salmon, managing director of Salmon Assessors, said: "From the number of claims that are coming in this looks as if it is going to be the UK's costliest natural disaster."

Counting the cost

On Friday, Countryside Minister Elliot Morley said central government money would be available to help local authorities meet the cost of clearing up the devastation.

The minister, who is also responsible for flooding and coastal defence, said many people had been caught out in spite of early flood warnings.

Bail out
A Southern Water officer bails out a drain with a cup

He said: "The floodings were so extreme that many people who had not been caught in them before did not think they were at risk."

Mr Morley praised the work of rescue teams, the police and local authorities, but added: "These are extreme situations which it is almost impossible to engineer against."

Several roads in the region remain closed and many Connex South East trains were cancelled.

Flooding on the line between Tonbridge and Ashford is causing delays on Eurostar services.

Among the worst hit towns are Lewes and Uckfield in East Sussex. The centre of Uckfield remained closed on Friday morning.

Rescued dog
People have been urged to move pets to safety
Emergency services worked through the night to rescue people threatened by rising flood water from homes and rooftops.

Thousands of residents spent the night in emergency shelters after their terrifying ordeals and do not know when they will be able to return.

Some houses have been submerged in water and are severely damaged.

Some emergency vehicles, including an ambulance, have had to be abandoned after becoming trapped in rising flood water.

Seventeen Severe Flood Warnings - alerts of an imminent threat to life and property - remain in place for 12 rivers in Sussex and Kent.

The ambulance service is urging people not to dial 999 unless it is a "real emergency".

Lewes MP Norman Baker, who is working with the emergency services, said parts of the town were "unrecognisable".

The government says 420m will be spent in the next three years through capital grants to strengthen flood defences.

Floods Hotline: 0845 9881188

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