Jump to content

Looting, Panic Buying - And A Water Shortage


Recommended Posts

Gramps, this your area?






Looting, panic buying - and a water shortage


Valerie Elliott


Food and drinking water shortages, panic buying and the threat of looting have followed the worst flooding to hit England in 60 years.


Amid concerns that the government-run Environment Agency acted far too slowly in responding to serious flood alerts from the Met Office, parts of the West Country woke up this morning to another day under water and the Thames Valley now faces being inundated.


An estimated 90,000 gallons of water a second was surging down the swollen River Thames last night towards Oxford, Reading and Windsor.


The Environment Agency fears that the Thames Valley area will now suffer a similar fate to Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, where flooding has bought misery to thousands of people. Opposition MPs are seeking an emergency statement from the Government today.


The Times has learnt that the Ministry of Defence was unwilling to supply lorries and drivers without being guaranteed payment for their services. As a result there appear to have been delays in securing the use of high-sided vehicles that could deliver sleeping bags and flood parcels to the stricken communities.


In the area worst affected by the floodwater from the Severn and the Avon over the weekend, some homes were left without running water and supermarkets reported panic buying of bottled water and food, which is expected to create serious shortages for several days.


There will be fresh calls for more funding to cope with flood defences. The Times has also learnt that, despite the promise of an extra £200 million to the Environment Agency to update defences over the next three years, the Government is stalling over payment of the cash. Baroness Young of Old Scone, the agency’s chief executive, said that about £1 billion a year was needed to improve flood defences, because climate change would lead to increased rainfall.


The agency is unable to press ahead with approval and construction of new defence systems, with a priority for Oxford and Leeds, unless it is known when the money will be paid into agency coffers.


The disastrous flooding will also reignite concerns over the building of new homes on flood plains. There is particular concern that the Government’s commitment to building three million new homes by 2020, to be set out in a Housing Green Paper today, will increase the risk of flooding and create intense pressure to develop the Green Belt.


The Health Protection Agency is advising people to take the advice of their water companies about the safety of drinking water after evidence that some supplies had been affected. There were also fears of looting in Gloucester as many families were evacuated from their homes and their streets were blacked out after an electricity sub-station was swamped in the flood. West Mercia Constabulary said that looters were targeting stranded vehicles abandoned by flood victims.


Staple food items, including fresh vegetables and salad, are also in short supply because supermarket lorries were unable to make deliveries. Fresh produce grown in the waterlogged Vale of Evesham has also been unable to reach the shops. Kevin Hawkins, the director-general of the British Retail Consortium, gave warning last night that there would be localised shortages but that supplies would be resumed quickly in the next two days.


Sir Michael Spicer, the Conservative MP for West Worcestershire, called for an emergency Commons statement. “I do not know why the Met Office advice was not acted upon more immediately by the Environment Agency and why they could not secure the necessary equipment and manpower to be in place,” he said.


He was particularly concerned about Upton-upon-Severn and the failure by the agency to install temporary flood defences. He said: “The defences were kept in Kidderminster, which is about 20 miles away, but in exceptional weather they could not get through on the roads. I think there is a case for keeping flood defences inside or near the towns which need them.”


He was also concerned that the order to move the defence system from Kidderminster was not made until 2pm on Friday, despite the river water levels having been rising very fast on Friday morning. This lack of action may also trigger some legal action from insurance companies in an attempt to recoup cash paid out to flooded households. A spokeswoman for the Association of British Insurers said that any action would be decided by individual companies.


Even those who escaped the floods are suffering. More than 200,000 people have now been left without drinking water. Severn Trent Water said that homes in the north of Gloucestershire would be left without supplies for the next two days after a big pumping plant near Tewkesbury was overwhelmed by the floods.


Carrie Douch, 26, a mother of two children from Gloucester, said that she had driven more than 15 miles to buy water after the closure of the water treatment plant. “We have been to three supermarkets and water had sold out in all of them,” she said. “The queues outside the supermarkets are horrendous. Everyone is desperate to get their hands on some water. We have heard stories of grown men pushing kids out of the way to get to bottles of the stuff. It is disgusting.”


Many minor roads in the flooded areas remain impassable and the police have been advising motorists to take warm clothing and food in case they become trapped in their cars. Rail services between Hereford and Shrewsbury were due to resume last night but other services could be delayed or cancelled this morning in areas hit by the flood water overnight.


Gordon Brown chaired a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee last night with Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, and Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, among the ministers present. He is expected to visit flood-affected areas this morning.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.