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Rishi Sunak faces criticism following a week of severe flooding throughout England.
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Rishi Sunak faces criticism following a week of severe flooding throughout England.

Extensive parts of England were left devastated by flooding at the end of the week as rivers reached unprecedented levels, sparking a heated political dispute over financial support for the nation’s most susceptible regions.

The Labour Party criticized Rishi Sunak for being negligent in regards to flood warnings. This comes after a week in which over 1,000 properties were flooded and certain villages were completely isolated. The areas most severely impacted were Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire.

The EA in England attributed the floods to the climate crisis and recommended that those living in flood-prone areas shut off their gas, water, and electricity, bring belongings to higher levels, and evacuate family members, pets, and vehicles for safety.

While the weekend is expected to bring an end to the rain, temperatures are expected to drop significantly, adding to the difficulties faced by those attempting to restore their homes and businesses following the heavy downpour.

The Environmental Agency cautioned residents affected by flooding to prepare for an additional five days of difficulties due to the ground being fully saturated.

On Friday evening, there were still numerous flood warnings and alerts covering England and Wales, as well as a cold weather alert from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) starting on Saturday.

The National Audit Office recently disclosed that the amount of properties set to receive improved flood protection by 2027 has been reduced by 40%, with 500 out of 2,000 new flood defence projects being abandoned.

Rishi Sunak visiting a cafe in Marple, Stockport.

On Friday, the prime minister was met with boos as he departed from a cafe in Marple, Stockport. This came after he had spoken with activists in the contested constituency of Hazel Grove, which is shared by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

The individuals who were criticizing him demanded that he step down, though not specifically due to his management of the floods. However, Sunak asserted that his administration was effectively handling the flooding situation, following Labour’s announcement that they would assemble a taskforce similar to Cobra to safeguard at-risk regions. Sir Keir Starmer promised to ensure that flood defences were sufficient.

According to Labour, the focus was not on additional funds, but on making sure that the allocated budget for flood prevention is utilized efficiently.

Sunak responded to criticism by stating that the Environment Agency has personnel on the ground and fully acknowledges the urgency of the situation. He also affirmed that they are taking appropriate and expedient action.

Despite calls from the Liberal Democrats to personally visit areas affected by flooding, he chose to send Robbie Moore, the junior minister of the environment department, to Nottingham where numerous properties along the River Trent had to be evacuated.

Moore informed journalists that the EA was exerting significant effort and that the government was allocating £5.2bn for the “upcoming period” to enhance the safeguarding of homes affected by these repercussions.

He suggested that local officials could greatly enhance their assessment of planning proposals by considering the potential consequences of flooding.

Despite the government increasing its budget for flood defence, Labour stated that the number of properties safeguarded from flooding would only increase by 20%.

Alex McDonald, a spokesperson for the EA, stated by the Trent River that the east Midlands is experiencing the consequences of climate change. As a country, we must become more prepared for flooding.

This week, the Guardian and Greenpeace released a report stating that the number of critical flood defenses in need of repair has nearly tripled in the West Midlands and the east of England since 2018. This puts thousands of homes and businesses at a higher risk for storm damage.

Houses in Radcliffe-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire surrounded by flood water.

Paul Taylor, the councillor in charge of public protection for Newark and Sherwood district council, stated that significant funding was necessary to improve flood defense measures. However, the current focus is on assisting and safeguarding the residents in the area.

He mentioned that there are remote villages that have limited access. As a result, they have been providing assistance to individuals in obtaining necessary medication and addressing various needs.

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“This marks the third occurrence of flooding within the past three months.”

The heavy rain also impacted train schedules. According to Great Western Railway, multiple routes are currently not in operation due to flooding. These include routes between Swindon and Bristol Parkway, Reading and Castle Cary, and Liskeard and Looe in Cornwall.

Numerous local roads were rendered inaccessible due to flooding, particularly in western England. On Friday, the A421 between the M1 motorway and the A6 in Bedfordshire was also closed. National Highways reported efforts to remove the flood water.

On Thursday, the greatest amount of rainfall was 35.2mm at Otterbourne in Hampshire. In the southern counties of England, there was a varying range of 20mm-30mm.

Flood water inside a furniture workshop in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.

On Friday, Pat McFadden and Steve Reed, the shadow Cabinet Office minister and shadow environment secretary, issued a joint statement. They stated that the government disregarded a warning from the National Audit Office in November, which stated that the government was not upholding its promises to improve protection for homes against flooding.

According to the statement, Rishi Sunak has not been actively addressing the situation and needs to take immediate action to prevent further harm to people’s lives and livelihoods. The issue is not about allocating additional funds, but rather making sure that the allocated budget for flood protection is utilized effectively. Failure to do so will leave homes in various areas vulnerable.

The Environmental Agency stated that there will be major flooding along the River Trent and in Gloucester on Saturday. 250 flood warnings are currently in effect for the Midlands and southern England.

The report stated that regions in the south-west along the River Avon will experience effects, and mentioned that ongoing consequences are expected throughout much of England for the next five days due to the ground being fully saturated.

The data from EA revealed that nearly all rivers in England were experiencing unusually high levels, with certain rivers even surpassing their previous record highs. For instance, the River Itchen in Southampton had a flow rate that was twice its previous record in December.

The UK Health Security Agency has declared a yellow alert for cold weather starting at 9am on Saturday until 12pm on January 12th.

A specialist stated that the United Kingdom should anticipate an increase in rainy winters as a result of climate change.

Dr Emily Wallace, a Met Office fellow in climate extremes, said: “In the future, climate projections for the UK indicate there being a greater risk of heavy precipitation and prolonged events in the future, particularly during winter.”

Source: theguardian.com