Members of Parliament representing regions in England that have been severely impacted by Storm Babet are demanding an examination of the shortcomings of the Environment Agency (EA). This comes after reports that certain individuals were only notified of potential flooding after their homes had already been affected.
According to Toby Perkins, the Chesterfield Labour MP, residents of Tapton Terrace in Derbyshire were alerted to the flooding by the early warning system only after their homes had already been flooded. This delay was reported after the death of 83-year-old Maureen Gilbert, who was found dead in the flood water.
Perkins stated that while the EA is trying hard, they are not adequately prepared for the challenges of dealing with flooding in the modern era. He feels that the organization is not equipped to handle the current demands.
On Thursday evening, the EA representative reassured us on television not to be concerned. It is necessary to thoroughly evaluate the situation and strengthen the EA’s capability and capacity in order for them to effectively carry out their duties. We cannot disregard the significant decrease in funding they have experienced over the past 13 years.
Perkins expressed that individuals were experiencing feelings of anger and disappointment regarding the amount of warning they received. He also stated that just one additional hour of notice could have greatly reduced the extent of the damage.
“Today, I spoke with a pub owner who stated that if we had been given just one more hour of notice, my business would have had a chance at sustainability. However, now I fear that the amount of damage may cause my business to go bankrupt,” he expressed.
In Catcliffe, a town in South Yorkshire, approximately 120 residences experienced flooding on Saturday when the River Rother overflowed. Local MP Sarah Champion stated that a flood warden had alerted the EA (Environment Agency) that the nearby flood plains were inundated with water, but it took six hours for a flood alert to be issued.
She stated that he phoned them around 8:30 pm, but many individuals were not aware of it until the fire department came to their door at 4 or 5 am.
Many individuals feel betrayed and that their freedom to make decisions has been taken away. If proper notification had been given, people could have at least moved their cars. The situation has been extremely shocking. There are several council bungalows in the area that were affected by the flooding, and some residents could have potentially drowned while sleeping in their beds.
The EA’s lack of preparation was attributed by the environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, to the direction of rainfall.
During her appearance before the environment, food, and rural affairs committee this week, she explained that the majority of our rainfall typically comes from the west. However, on this occasion, the rain was coming from a different direction and our ability to accurately predict where the heavy rain would fall was not as precise due to our lack of experience with this type of weather pattern.
The Champion stated that the statement was nonsensical and used the analogy of rain falling into a river to explain. They believed that the other party was too confident and were caught off guard.
She requested for updated flood models to be implemented nationwide to ensure they accurately depict the risks of flooding. She also suggested a new system for quickly disseminating information to warn people of potential floods.
“She stated that while the world and environment have evolved, the EA has not adjusted their plans to address these changes. She also mentioned that the development of two new housing estates in Catcliffe may have worsened the risk of flooding, compounded by the impact of the current climate crisis.”
Coffey announced that Defra and the EA will conduct a swift assessment in order to identify areas for improvement.
The EA has been asked for a statement.