Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue service members tow
stranded residents to safety in Burrowbridge. REUTERS/Luke
Severe flooding and landslips cut off rail links to large
parts of southwest England for more than 24 hours at the
weekend as the government came under pressure for its handling
of storms battering Britain.
Some areas have been underwater for over a month in the
wettest January on record, with angry residents criticising
the government for not doing enough to prevent flooding or
reacting quickly enough to help those affected by the
The military have been brought in to help build flood
defences and evacuate properties. Britain's Met Office said
several weather warnings remained in place for the coming
days, with more heavy rain and gale force winds expected.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who visited the region on
Friday (local time), has announced extra funding for flood
defence repairs and maintenance. He is due to chair a meeting
of the government's emergency committee later on Sunday.
But Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith, who received a
frosty reception when he visited flood-hit areas this week,
has faced calls to step down.
On Sunday, the government's communities minister Eric
Pickles, who took over responsibility for the flood response
after the environment minister was taken ill, apologised.
"We made a mistake, there's no doubt about that, and we
perhaps have relied too much on the Environment Agency's
advice," he told the BBC, saying the government now realised
rivers should have been dredged to help prevent flooding.
"I'll apologise unreservedly and I'm really sorry that we
took the advice," he said. "We thought we were dealing with
In the Somerset Levels, where muddy brown water stretched off
in all directions as far as the eye could see, nearly 3
million tonnes of water were being pumped out every day.
Earlier in the week, high tides and stormy seas destroyed a
large section of sea wall at Dawlish in Devon, washing a
stretch of railway track into the sea. Further flooding and
landslips cut off all rail links to Devon and Cornwall on
On Sunday afternoon Network Rail, Britain's rail network
operator, said one route had now reopened for a limited
service, with trains running at a reduced speed.
Low cost airline Flybe has said it will double the number of
flights it runs on weekdays from Newquay in Cornwall to
London to help alleviate transport problems.
Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain's anti-European Union
party UKIP, has called for some of the overseas aid budget to
be diverted to help tackle the flooding. Speaking to the BBC
during a visit to the region on Sunday, he described the
government's response as "Too little, too late".