Residents bring back stools in a canoe to raise their
furniture higher after the river Thames flooded the village
of Wraysbury, southern England. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the government
would spend whatever was needed to deal with flooding in
England as he cancelled a planned visit to the Middle East to
handle a crisis which has left some homes under water for
The damage caused by England's wettest January since 1766 has
left Cameron battling to defend his government's response
against criticism it did not do enough to prevent flooding in
the first place and then was too slow to help those affected.
"Money is no object in this relief effort, whatever money was
needed for it will be spent," he told a news conference in
London, after spending 24 hours visiting flood-hit areas in
south west England, where major rail links have been
Cameron, who has taken control of the crisis after an
escalating blame game between ministers and the Environment
Agency, said he had no choice but to shelve a visit to Israel
and Palestine scheduled for next week.
"I'm sending my apologies today to (Israeli) Prime Minister
(Benjamin) Netanyahu and (Palestinian) President (Mahmoud)
Abbas, but nothing is more important than dealing with these
floods," he said.
Britain's two-party coalition government has faced increasing
pressure over the situation, with critics saying problems
have been exacerbated by years of underinvestment in river
dredging and flood defences.
Cameron described the government's response to the flooding
as strong and rejected calls to divert money from Britain's
foreign aid budget to help victims of flooding.
"We don't have to make that choice. We are a wealthy country
with a growing economy, with public finances that are
increasingly coming under control," he said.
"We will spend the correct money here at home and we will do
that without interfering with our aid budget."
Earlier on Tuesday, Defence Minister Philip Hammond was
berated by a local resident during a visit to flooded
Wraysbury, close to London, who said the authorities were not
doing enough to help those affected by flooding.
Hundreds of homes along the banks of the River Thames west of
London were evacuated on Tuesday. With water levels still
rising and more rain forecast for the rest of the week,
Cameron warned things may get worse before they get better.
In the badly-affected Somerset Levels area in south west
England, more than 65 million cubic metres of flood water is
being pumped out at a rate of 3 million cubic metres a day.
The Met Office said 16 severe flood warnings, indicating a
danger to life, remain in place across the south of England.
Cameron said the military, who have already been brought in
to help build flood defences and evacuate homes, could play a
greater role and said thousands more were on standby to be
drafted in as needed.
"My focus is on the operational response helping those people
who need help and protecting those properties which need
protecting, it will be a long haul," he said.