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PM Cameron visits flood-hit British city of York


David_Cameron_officialBritish Prime Minister David Cameron visited the flood-hit historic city of York on Monday as cities, towns and villages across northern England battled to get back on their feet following devastating storms.

Cameron tweeted a picture of himself meeting soldiers helping with the aftermath of the flooding as he faced increasing pressure to take more action to prevent more such chaos in future.

Around 500 properties were flooded in York, one of Britain’s top tourist attractions, on Sunday as two rivers burst their banks. Some residential streets became so inundated that cars were covered up to their roofs.

Soldiers helped pile sandbags up to protect properties and businesses while emergency services paddled around the streets in dinghies trying to find stranded residents, who were then evacuated.

Flooding has also hit the cities of Leeds and Manchester in recent days, as well as a string of towns and villages nearby.

The Environment Agency had 27 severe flood warnings in place Monday, signalling a “danger to life”, chiefly at points along major rivers in Yorkshire.

There were also another 170 flood warning or alerts in place, meaning flooding was either expected or possible.

Cameron sent in 200 more troops to help 300 already on the ground in northern England with tackling the effects of flooding Sunday. Another 1,000 are on standby in case the situation gets worse.

More rain is forecast later in the week, raising the prospect of further floods at a time when many people are still at home following Christmas celebrations.

The Met Office weather forecasting service has issued warnings of rain on Wednesday in northwest and northeast England plus Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland.

– ‘Changing climate’ –
Cameron’s government was under pressure Monday over the quality of Britain’s flood defences.

The country has been hit by a string of serious floods including in Cumbria, northern England, earlier this month and in late 2013 and early 2014 in southwest and southeast England.

The Independent newspaper’s front page headline read: “The drowning of the north of England” while the Sun ran with “Blunder water”.

The Guardian said that “empty rhetoric and even the army cannot substitute for coherent policy on flood prevention”.

“Climate change and inadequate preparation… ensure that the floods will become a painfully regular future of British life,” the daily said in its editorial.

Ministers announced a review earlier this month following the floods in Cumbria which will look at whether homes have enough protection.

David Rooke, deputy chief executive of the Environment Agency government body, told BBC radio that a “complete rethink” was needed.

“I think it (the review) will lead to the conclusion that we will need to reassess all the defences right across the country to say what standard of protection have we now got based on current science and what standard of protection will be needed in the future in the face of this changing climate,” he added.

Cameron said a combination of temporary and permanent barriers had helped, but said ministers would look again at what more could be done.

Accountancy firm PwC said it was too early to estimate losses arising from this month’s floods, but initial analysis showed that they could run as high as ¬£1.3 billion ($1.9 billion, 1.8 billion euros).

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