Tuesday 20 February 2018

Man's body found amid Storm Desmond floods clean-up in Cumbria

Roads have been closed throughout the North and Scotland as Storm Desmond caused road chaos, landslides and flooding
Roads have been closed throughout the North and Scotland as Storm Desmond caused road chaos, landslides and flooding
A road closure sign ahead of a bridge over the River Kent on Main Street in Staveley, Cumbria. Photo: Kim Pilling/PA Wire

A body has been found by police searching for an elderly man believed to have fallen into the River Kent in flood-hit Cumbria.

An underwater search team is working to recover the body which was discovered in the Kendal area, Cumbria Police said.

Officers were called to reports that the man had fallen into the swollen river shortly after 10am yesterday.

Police confirmed the body of the missing man was recovered from a stream running into the River Kent in the Staveley area of Kendal.

A police spokeswoman said: "Officers from Cumbria Constabulary and the Underwater Search Team recovered the body this afternoon.

"Police were called at 10.01am yesterday to reports than an elderly man had fallen in the water.

"Formal identification has not yet taken place."

David Cameron will visit areas hit by the devastating floods amid mounting criticism of multimillion-pound defences which failed to keep the deluge of water out of people's homes.

The Prime Minister said he would travel to "badly-hit" places after chairing a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency response committee, as northern England and Scotland brace themselves for more heavy rain.

After Cumbria, the county worst affected by Storm Desmond, declared a major incident over the weekend, the Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for rain across north west England and western Scotland this week.

More than 45 severe flood warnings are in place, meaning there is a danger to life, across the North West, along with dozens of less serious flood warnings and flood alerts over northern England and Wales.

In Carlisle, the Army was sent to help support emergency services evacuating people from their homes in streets where cars were almost entirely submerged.

Cumbria County Council leader Stewart Young has called for an investigation into the county's flood defences after £45 million was invested since catastrophic floods in 2005.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I will be talking to our local MPs later today and if the Environment Agency needs to revisit them then that's what's going to have to happen, because we can't continue to have events like this in Cumbria, we just won't be able to cope."

Floods minister Rory Stewart said the defences had slowed down the water to allow more time for evacuations.

He told the BBC: "When you face, as we have now, probably the highest rainfall we have ever had in the United Kingdom, it is going to come over the top of defences.

"But what the defences do do is they slow it down, it gives us more time, it's given people here more time to evacuate safely, and it's meant that there's less water on the streets than there would have been if we hadn't had that defence in place."

Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan said the EA would have to review what happened in Cumbria to "learn the lessons for the future".

Electricity North West said 2,657 properties in Cumbria were without power on Monday morning because of 11 separate faults caused by flooding, with water preventing engineers from getting to the sites to carry out repairs.

Around 40 schools remained closed, while the disruption led to the cancellation of appointments and routine business across NHS hospitals and services.

Cumbria rain gauge figures showed a record amount fell in the 24 hours between Friday and Saturday evenings, with 13.4in (341mm) registered in Honister - more than a month's worth of rain in just one day.

More than 2,000 homes and businesses in the county were flooded and almost 60,000 homes in the county were left without power throughout Sunday as the floods damaged substations and caused electrical faults.

In the Lancaster and Morecambe area, where the main substation was flooded on Saturday night, engineers working "around the clock" restored power to 45,000 homes and were continuing efforts to return power to the remaining 10,000 over the course of Monday morning.

Power has been restored to all homes in north Wales after heavy rain and wind left 700 without power on Saturday. And in Northern Ireland, major clean-up operations were under way in parts of Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh after weekend flooding damaged homes and businesses.

Superintendent Mark Pannone, of Cumbria Constabulary, said the flooding had been "on an unprecedented scale", affecting the whole county.

"A lot of the county are trying to get back to normality but we still have the ongoing incident in Carlisle where we have about 2,500 properties in Carlisle flooded," he said.

The rail network in Cumbria remained "basically at a standstill", he added.

An appeal by Cumbria Community Foundation to raise £1 million to support vulnerable individuals and families who have been badly affected by the floods is under way and has already raised more than £260,000.

The discovery of a body in the River Kent comes after the death of a 90-year-old man who was believed to have been blown into the side of a moving bus by strong winds near Finchley Central Tube station in London.

Downing Street said the Cobra meeting had considered the immediate help that could be offered to households and communities affected by the flooding, as well as longer-term efforts to get flood-hit areas "back on their feet".

Ministers were briefed over the phone on the operational response by chief constables for the affected areas and spoke to the Met Office about weather forecasts for the coming week.

The meeting also agreed that the Government should review the readiness of areas across England and Wales to cope with the record levels of rainfall which have been seen, including an assessment of existing flood defences to determine whether they need further strengthening.

There was "agreement that the Government should now look again at ... the plans that we have in place and the flood defences that already exist, and whether there needs to be adjustment made to those based on the fact that we have seen unprecedented amounts of rainfall in some areas, going above the flood defences that had been planned for on the basis of the levels of water that there were in 2005", said the Prime Minister's spokeswoman.

Water levels in Carlisle reached about 50cm above the level seen in 2005, which was itself 50cm above the previous record in 1853, said the spokeswoman.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss will set out more details of the Government's response in an oral statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

The Government has already committed to a £2.3 billion programme of flood defences over six years.

Police said they have received no reports of looting in Cumbria.

A spokesman said: "There has been some speculation to suggest that police are dealing with looting incidents in the county, particularly in Carlisle.

"After the 2005 floods there were several looting reports and, as a result, following the 2009 floods the patrols were stepped up in preparation.

"As a precaution, extra patrols for this purpose have again been deployed in the Carlisle area.

"However, at this time we have had no reports of looting."

Ms Truss will visit Cumbria after making her statement to the Commons.

She said: "Our thoughts are with those still affected by flooding this morning. The Government's priority now is to ensure that people are safe and to co-ordinate the response, restoring power and transport networks and ensuring that communities get access to the support they need.

"Flood defences protected 8,600 homes across the north of England and, in thousands of other instances, provided vital time for homes and businesses to be evacuated as well as reducing the impact. However, unprecedented rain and river levels mean we have seen water overtopping defences in places.

"Overnight, engineers have managed to restore power to thousands of homes, but many are still without electricity and I'd like to pay tribute to engineers who are working round the clock to get things back to normal, along with the emergency services and agencies who have been providing assistance across flooded areas."

Press Association

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