Our flood defences and the swift actions of emergency services have protected thousands of properties across the country but unprecedented levels of rainfall mean that the water in some areas has risen to levels never seen before. That has meant that while flood defences have delayed and reduced the impact, we have seen some water overtopping defences in places.
This morning I chaired a COBR meeting, ensuring that every possible resource is available to the emergency services and responders on the ground.
Flood defences performed as they were designed to but because of the exceptional levels of rainfall we have seen water overtopping some flood defences. These defences have still provided vital time for the emergency services to evacuate homes and preparations to be made. Storm Desmond has largely passed, but rivers remain swollen and the ground is saturated by the significant volumes of rain we have seen in recent weeks. In particular, we are carefully monitoring the situation in Carlisle and York where river levels have not yet reached their peak. Overnight and yesterday the emergency services have coordinated the movement of additional pumps into the areas, evacuated people from their homes, deployed more than a kilometre of temporary flood defences and begun work supporting those affected. The military have already established an operations centre helping to coordinate the response and they have 350 personnel in the region and equipment available to ensure help gets to the communities most in need as quickly as possible. This includes a Chinook helicopter deployed and on standby to assist. Electricity North West are working to restore power to customers whose electricity supplies have been affected by the flooding of a sub-station in Lancaster. Generators are being moved to Lancaster, with priority being given to those in the greatest need, such as the elderly and vulnerable. 14 generators have arrived and are being connected. EA are currently carrying out an aerial survey over Carlisle to assess the extent of the damage and coordinate the response. Satellites have also been tasked to cover the flooded areas to five responders the best possible picture of what is happening on the ground. There remains a risk of further flooding in some areas and the Environment Agency continues to warn communities in northern England to be prepared today and tomorrow. They have issued more flood warnings and alerts across the country. It is important people continue to heed the advice of the emergency services. EA teams have been working around the clock to check and maintain flood defences, clearing blockages in watercourses, monitoring water levels and issuing flood warnings where necessary. Main rivers all across Cumbria have exceeded the highest values ever recorded. River levels on the River Cocker peaked around 7pm on Saturday. The River Eden (at Sands Centre) broke through the previous highest record of 4.85m, rising over 6.2m around 11:30pm on Saturday. Similarly at Keswick, the River Greta (Greta Bridge) showed the highest ever recorded at 5.32m. The previous record was 4.66m. At Carlisle the Eden is forecast to peak at 7.7-7.9m at 9am Sunday. The previous highest recorded was 7.2m. These exceed 2005 and 2009. Over the past 48 hours, Environment Agency rain gauges have recorded widespread totals of more than 200mm across Cumbria. Provisional figures from a rain gauge in Honister in Cumbria show that 341mm rain fell in 24 hours (18:30 Friday- 18.30 Saturday). If verified, this will be a UK record for 24 hours. This is more than a month’s worth of rainfall in a day. We have used all our flood storage reservoirs at Carlisle, Wigton, Longton, Kendal and Penrith. We have protected thousands of properties from flooding. Overnight we operated flood basins at Garstang and Catterall on the River Wyre. Collectively, the two basins hold 3 Million cubic metres of flood water (equivalent to 1200 Olympic size swimming pools). This helped to protect well over 400 properties. Floods Minister Rory Stewart travelled to Cumbria on Saturday night where he is meeting teams from the local Environment Agency and families affected by the floods. Rivers are swollen and the ground is saturated by significant volumes of rain in recent weeks. As such there remains a risk of further flooding and in some areas and the Environment Agency continues to warn communities in northern England to be prepared today and tomorrow. Our priority is always public safety and we urge people to keep up to date with the latest situation by paying close attention to advice from the Environment Agency. Government takes the risk of flooding very seriously – which is why, ahead of this winter, we have put in place over 100 specialist flood rescue teams across the country. We also have a network of expert incident response teams in place, who can deploy emergency defences when they are needed. We are delivering on our manifesto commitment to build 1,400 new flood defence schemes that will better protect 300,000 more homes. That’s an extra £2.3 billion of capital investment to help our most at-risk communities.
Our thoughts are with those communities affected by this devastating flooding. We are expecting upwards of 2,000 homes and businesses will have been flooded. Some areas are experiencing power cuts while other are difficult to reach because of severe disruption to travel.