British PM to visit northern areas hit by devastating floods

British PM to visit northern areas hit by devastating floods
Residents clear silt from a house in Cockermouth, northern England, on Dec 7, 2015 following heavy flooding in the town.
PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Prime Minister David Cameron will visit northwest England on Monday, where two people have died and hundreds of others have been forced to leave homes flooded by record heavy rainfall.

With more than a month's rain falling over 24 hours in some areas, swathes of northern England and Scotland are under water, prompting the government to call on the army to help evacuate those trapped in their homes.

Some were taken to safety in boats after roads were submerged, and officials expressed concern that heavy rains were becoming more frequent in some parts of the country after floods hit the region in 2009 and 2005.

Cameron discussed the flooding for just under an hour with the government's emergency committee earlier on Monday, working out how best to help those affected by the record rains and whether Britain's flood defences were adequate.

"We should sit down again ... (and) look at the flood schemes that have been built, look at the ones that are planned, look at the level of rainfall and the level of flooding that there was and ask what more can we do," he told reporters. "We think first of the victims of the floods but we make sure we learn any lessons afterwards."

Britain's Environment Agency said more than 80 flood warnings were in place on Monday, 46 of which were severe.

Police said on Monday that a body was found near the northern town of Kendal after police were called on Sunday to reports that an elderly man had fallen in the water, the second person confirmed dead since the floods began.

Some in the northwest criticised flood defences, but Environment Agency Chief Executive James Bevan described the rainfall as an "unprecedented event".

"In those areas where the water did come over the tops of the defences, firstly, the fact the defences were there reduced the overall impact and extent of the flood and, secondly, it gave people more time to prepare," he told BBC Radio. "From time to time nature will throw things at us which will overwhelm the system and I think that is what happened here."

Last year, parts of southwest England lost rail services to the rest of the country for two months due to flood and storm damage which Britain's Met Office said was the latest in an"exceptional run of winter storms".

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