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SOMERSET FLOODS: Deputy PM Nick Clegg says lack of dredging was "a mistake"
Updated 9:14pm Monday 10th February 2014 in News
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- Deputy PM Nick Clegg says lack of prolonged dredging "a mistake" but adds it is not the time for "finger-pointing" blame.
- 20,000 sandbags to be deployed across Levels.
- Petition calls for Environment Agency chief to be sacked.
- Somerset braced for another week of wet weather.
Good news @dredgetherivers we have secured another load of silage and haylage, possibly two. The convey will arrive thurs. #somersetfloods— @Woolleyparkgolf 10 February 2014
TAUNTON concrete company S Morris Ltd came to the rescue of Somerset Levels residents unable to buy sand to fill sandbags to protect their homes.
The family-owned firm, based at Priorswood Industrial Estate, spotted an on-line appeal for help and sent three lorry-loads of sand to Stathe and Burrowbridge free of charge.
One was even dispatched at night as water levels rose and homeowners feared the worst.
A company spokesman said: “We heard they’d got bags but couldn’t get any sand to fill them.
“Over the last few days we’ve given them about 25 tonnes of sand to fill the sandbags.
“We couldn’t just stand by and do nothing when all they were trying to do was stop their homes from flooding.”
Creating a platform for high capacity pumps at Dunball Wharf #somersetfloods http://t.co/bm29BWy73p— @dredgetherivers 10 February 2014
THE Environment Agency is stepping up its pumping operations on the Somerset Levels.
Thirteen temporary pumps have been brought in to maximise the amount of water that can be pumped away from the saturated ground.
Five will be installed at Beer Wall on the A372, and eight at Dunball over the next few days. These have been brought in from Holland.
John Rowlands of the Environment Agency said: "Increasing the volume of floodwater passing down the Sowy will assist in reducing river levels in the Rivers Parrett and Tone.
"This operation will involve additional pumping on both the Sowy and the King’s Sedgemoor Drain."
For the first couple of days only the pumps at Dunball will run, with the aim of lowering water levels in the King’s Sedgemoor system first.
Monks Leaze Clyce will then be opened gradually and more flow diverted down the Sowy, over pumping at Beer Wall Sluice and pumping out on all states of the tide at Dunball.
The A372 will be closed while the pumps are in operation.
For more information, ring the Environment Agency incident hotline number on 0800-807060.
NURSES at Bishop’s Hull-based St Margaret’s Hospice have pulled out all the stops to make sure their patients haven’t suffered during the flooding.
The charity currently has 10 patients in areas that have been flooded, while some staff have also been stranded.
Clinical director Ann Lee said: “Our staff have been amazing during this difficult time.
“They’re working across the county to make sure cover is complete.
“If one member of staff hasn’t been able to get to a patient because the road is blocked, another has stepped in, regardless of the distance.
“And, if that wasn’t enough to ask of them, they’ve even slept over in the hospice to ensure the inpatients units remain fully manned.”
The charity is also working with all other support services, including NHS colleagues and domiciliary care services to ensure that patients are fully supported, even taking one patient into the hospice inpatient unit because her home carer had been unable to reach her.JOY Miliken, head of nursing braving flood water.
Head of nursing Joy Miliken is pictured braving flood water.
Latest information & advice for residents in flooded areas of #Somerset: http://t.co/BBJGwkSH2n #SomersetFloods— @ASPolice 10 February 2014
ROYAL Marines from 40 Commando, based at Norton Manor Camp, helped out by sandbagging over the weekend.
They are pictured assisting locals, including Taunton Deane councillor Tim Slattery.
A SOMERSET Levels and Moors Authority would enable local people who know the area best to take control of the future of the area.
The call for the body to be set up comes from Cllr Sam Crabb, leader of the LibDem Opposition at Somerset County Council.
He said: “Why aren't the Conservatives at County Hall pushing for more support.
“It is simply not good enough what is going on - we can and should do far more.
“I have been informed by the Minister for Flooding Dan Rogerson MP that any help that Somerset County Council have asked for, they are getting, so why aren't we asking for more help and support?
“I am pleased that a motion passed by LibDem Regional Conference calling on the Government to establish Somerset Levels and Moors Authority - this will mean local representatives who know the area best can take control of the future of this area.
“Lots of people are offering help and many are working hard to support those that need it, but clearly a more joined up approach was needed from the start."
Cllr Justine Baker - (pictured front right working with FLAG volunteers) - who is standing for the LibDems in Bridgwater and West Somerset at the next General Election, said she has been helping local people as “the situation is getting worse daily."
She praised the “inspiring” work of the Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG) and offers of help from across the country.
But Mrs Baker added: “Why has it been left to groups like FLAG to take on this massive burden, when many of them have their own homes, farms and businesses flooded themselves?
“The councils should and can do far more. I am angry and upset for residents who are not getting the help they need.
“However the people of Somerset owe FLAG and all those that have donated and helped a massive thank you.”
THE Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution is offering emergency grants to help farmers, farm workers and their families through the crisis.
RABI’s Paul Burrows said: “We are contacting those people in the area we have supported in the past to ask if we can provide additional help.
“We haven’t had many new applications yet because, as we usually find in a crisis, people are currently working every hour of the day, doing all they can to care for their livestock and protect their property and not yet dealing with its financial impact on them and their family.
“We expect more calls to come in when the immediate crisis is over and people start to take stock of the situation and how it affects their future income, viability and welfare.
“Our regional manager in Somerset is already working closely with the NFU and other organisations so that we can advise people about the sources of help available, including the provision of animal feed, and our welfare officer is standing by.
“We are also continuing to work closely and in collaboration with Farm Community Network (FCN) as part of the Farming Help charities.
“In readiness for more calls we have fast-tracked our application process to make it easier and quicker for us to get money to eligible people, whether they are currently working in the industry, or are retired from farming and are also affected.
For help call 0300-3037373 or e-mail email@example.com
To donate to the farming charity visit www.rabi.org.uk
(Nick Clegg, left, alongside David Heath, Somerton and Frome MP, and Sarah Yong, who is standing in Mr Heath's place as the LibDem candidate in the next General Election).
NICK Clegg said: “We need to, once this terrible emergency is over, learn the lessons from the past.
“The lack of dredging over a prolonged period of time was a mistake, but I don’t think it’s the time to start finger-pointing the blame.”
The Deputy Prime Minister said co-ordinated actions are needed “to deal with the immediate effect”, with “a whole lot of extra money” from the Government made available to tackle flooding issues.
The various agencies need to work together to an agreed plan to deal with the problems on the Somerset Levels, added Mr Clegg.
He said: “I have met people who quite rightly feel very upset, who are very worried about their own property and their own livelihoods.
“But I have met people doing extreme things for their families, for their friends, for their businesses."
He said he had spoken to a farmer whose land was under almost nine feet of water, who was worried but “very resilient and gracious”, as well as members of FLAG and other volunteers.
“They haven’t slept much...they are a wonderful example of people volunteering,” added Mr Clegg.
NICK Clegg met with Nicola and Jonathan Coates in Stoke St Gregory to discuss the effect the floods have had on their business, the Willow and Wetlands Visitor Centre.
Taunton Deane MP Jeremy Browne went with Mr Clegg to the family's home for private discussions over breakfast before Mr Coates took the Deputy Prime Minister to see the damage to the Wetlands visitor centre.
Mr Clegg than visited Airtech, a company in Burrowbridge that has been affected by transport links being cut off, which has in turn affected the company's ability to get staff in to work easily.
Accompanied by Mr Browne, he met John Davison, the owner, his wife and staff working there.
He then popped into the Flood Action Group headquarters in Stoke St Gregory to thank volunteers for all the important work they are doing.
Afterwards, he saw the effects of the floods on homes in the Burrowbridge area.
After that he had a meeting at The Riverside Cafe in Langport with David Heath and representatives from the internal drainage board to discuss longer term dredging and draining plans for the area.
HE has been in Burrowbridge and in Langport, alongside David Heath, Somerton and Frome MP, and Sarah Yong, who is standing in Mr Heath's place as the LibDem candidate in the next General Election.
Mr Clegg said: "I have met people who quite rightly feel very upset, who are very worried about their own property and their own livelihoods.
"But I have met people doing extreme things for their families, for their friends, for their businesses."
MR Clegg came down overnight and has been meeting business people and flood victims.
He has told them that money will be available to deal with the immediate emergency.
DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg is the latest senior politician to visit Somerset.
He has been seen in Burrowbridge this morning.
A GROUP of Somerset flood victims have launched a petition calling for Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith to be sacked.
They say they are infuriated by Lord Smith's refusal to apologise for the devastation caused by the Agency’s decision 20 years ago to stop dredging rivers on the Somerset Levels.
The petition is being organised by master butcher Malcolm Pyne, from North Petherton, near Bridgwater.
His parents have had to leave their flooded home in the nearby village of Fordgate, and the beef farmer who supplies his shop has had to move his animals miles away because the land where they normally graze is under five feet of water.
Mr Pyne, who has also provided accommodation for a young family forced out of their home by the floods, said following Lord Smith's visit to Somerset on Friday: “To come down and see what devastation has been caused and then to try to defend and even praise the Environment Agency was tantamount to laughing in the face of the flood victims."
A MEMBER of the Burnham Area Rescue Boat charity in Moorland.
SOMERSET County Council says another 20,000 sandbags are ready to be deployed to communities across the Levels.
Its staff have worked alongside Royal Marines from 40 Commando, near Taunton, over the weekend to prepare the sandbags.
Somerset County Council leader John Osman said: “Our main aim is to keep residents and their property as safe as possible.
"These additional 20,000 sandbags will help towards these efforts.
"Floodwater is still rising and more than 150 homes are at risk of flooding in Somerset.
"We are working tirelessly 24/7 to ensure residents are safe, our roads are as clear as they can be in these difficult circumstances, schools are open, school buses can operate and vulnerable people receive the care and services they need.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “Military personnel, currently mostly Royal Marines, continue to provide support in Somerset in areas affected by floods as part of cross-Government and multi-agency relief efforts.
“As the Prime Minister has said, all available resources are being brought to bear to help those still struggling as a result of the floods.”