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The BBC's Andy Tighe in Yalding
"It will be some time before life here gets back to normal"
 real 56k

Roger Adderley, Maidstone Borough Council
"We are prioritising the roads"
 real 28k

Saturday, 14 October, 2000, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Relief as flood threat eases
When the River Ouse burst its banks, it hampered even the emergency services
The floodwaters swamped this ambulance in East Sussex
A potentially catastrophic high tide has come and gone without incident in Kent signalling that the worst of the floods which has plagued the south east of England is over.

Residents in Maidstone were particularly relieved when a high tide this afternoon did not cause the River Medway to burst its banks.

Residents had feared the high tide would increase water levels by between four and five feet, causing the water to cascade into nearby streets.

However, the high tide, the second in 24 hours, had little discernible effect on water levels and, with no further heavy rain forecast, the mop up operation is now beginning in earnest.

Flooded River Ouse
The countryside around the River Ouse has been badly affected

The number of severe flood alerts have been reduced from 12 to nine, all in Kent.

Flood alert reductions

However, new flood alerts have been issued for the south west, and for the Lower River Severn area in particular, and parts of the East Midlands.

Many homes in Yalding, and some in Maidstone, remain under feet of water -- but the Environment Agency says it hopes water levels have peaked.

Roger Adderley from Maidstone Borough Council says the authority is working hard to try to restore some semblance of normality:

Click here to see a map of the region

A Kent Police spokesman added: "We are now confident that water levels in Maidstone have reached their highest level.

Elliot Morley
Countryside Minister Elliot Morley has promised a review of flood plain developments

"The predicted floods did not happen but people need to remain vigilant over the high tide period."

Evacuation

Five more households were evacuated overnight by the RNLI and 60 residents spent the night in emergency accommodation.

In East Sussex, a major pumping operation was under way in Lewes, devastated when the River Ouse burst its banks on Wednesday.

The clear up operation throughout the south east has begun in earnest. The military from nearby RAF Manston has loaned pumping equipment. Contaminated sewage is proving to be a biggest problem.

The insurance industry representative body has dismissed the views of one assessor that the cost of the flooding could be as high as $4 billion.

The assessment came from Jeffrey Salmon, managing director of Salmon Assessors, but the Association of British Insurers said that figure was "totally unrealistic" and "pure fantasy".

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

The Association said its total claims will amount to "nowhere more than 40 million".

Its spokesman Malcolm Tarling said, contrary to reports that it has been the worst natural disaster in Britain since the hurricane of 1987, it was "not even a major event" in insurance terms.

"This is a small scale event as far as insurers are concerned.

Return to normal

"A bout of bad weather would usually cost our members something in the region of 100 million and this will be nowhere near that."

Maidstone was visited on Saturday by the Minister for Flood Protection, Elliot Morley.

Clean-up operation
The clean-up operation has begun but the insurance costs is likely to be less than 40 million

He told the BBC that the government is now considering how to regulate building on flood plains in the future.

"We have been looking at the whole policy of flood plain development. There will be new guidelines coming from the government which will strengthen the role of the Environmental Agency in terms of the risk of building on flood plains."

Experts predict it could take up to a week to return to normal.

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

Floods Hotline: 0845 9881188

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