Britain's Cameron to visit flood-hit areas

AFP , Monday 7 Dec 2015

Prime Minister David Cameron was to visit areas of Britain hit by severe flooding on Monday as residents began sweeping out homes and businesses in the wake of Storm Desmond.

"I've just chaired a COBRA meeting on the floods," Cameron wrote on Twitter after Britain's emergencies committee gathered to coordinate the response to the situation in northwest England.

"There'll be further announcements this morning -- and later I will visit badly hit areas," he added.

Police in Cumbria county declared a "major incident" after the storm hit, and weather warnings were issued for the rest of the week.

The storm left tens of thousands without power, disrupted water supplies and forced the closure of a number of schools.

One death was reported in London after an elderly man was blown into the path of a bus, police said on Saturday.

A body was also found in a search of the River Kent, police said, after reports that an elderly man had fallen into the water.

More than 350 military personnel were deployed in Carlisle, one of the worst-affected cities, with lifeboats and a military helicopter used to evacuate people to reception centres in places where the water reached waist height.

The incident raised questions over why barriers built following serious flooding in Cumbria in 2005 failed to contain the weekend's heavy rainfall, in which 2,000 buildings were flooded.

The Environment Agency said £45 million ($68 million, 63 million euros) had been spent on the defences in the last decade, and described the rainfall as "beyond the forecasts and beyond the models".

"Unfortunately the flood defences were just not going to be able to protect every single property," John Leyland, deputy director of operations at the Environment Agency, told BBC radio.

"The water we have seen in the street would have been a lot higher if we had not spent money on these defences."

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