UK grapples with severe floods after unusually heavy rains

Updated February 18, 2020

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York (UK): Floodwater rises up buildings alongside the River Ouse  after it burst its banks on Monday in the aftermath 
of Storm Dennis.—AFP
York (UK): Floodwater rises up buildings alongside the River Ouse after it burst its banks on Monday in the aftermath of Storm Dennis.—AFP

LONDON: Britain issued severe flood alerts on Monday, warning of life-threatening danger after Storm Dennis dumped weeks’ worth of rain in some places. One woman swept away by the floodwaters was feared dead.

To the east, Dennis’ gale-force winds also injured nine people in car accidents in Germany as trees crashed down onto roads and train tracks. Flooding and power outages were reported elsewhere in northern Europe.

Britain’s severe flood warnings were for communities in the central English counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire, but three other severe flood warnings were downgraded as the storm eased. By midday on Monday, the Met Office, Britain’s meteorological agency, listed 220 flood warnings for England, along with 20 for Wales and 11 for Scotland.

Yet the storm’s death toll of two looked certain to rise as West Mercia Police said the search for the woman, missing near Tenbury in Worcestershire since Sunday, had become a “recovery operation.” A man pulled from the water in the same incident was airlifted to a hospital, where he remains in a stable condition, police said.

The weather system brought winds of more than 145 kph (90 mph) and up to 150 millimeters (6 inches) of rain to Britain over the weekend.

Forecasters said river levels in parts of northern England had yet to reach their peak. In the northern England city of York, authorities were piling up more than 4,000 sandbags as the Rover Ouse continued to rise. Its expected to peak on Tuesday.

Other residents in Wales and western England were cleaning up on Monday after the storm flooded roads, railways, homes and businesses and disrupted travel across Britain. Some told stories of fleeing for their lives.

Jeanette Cox, 68 and her daughter Rachel woke up to the sound of water in their home in the Welsh village of Nantgarw, near Cardiff, about at 4 am on Sunday. Cox said the only object that survived downstairs was a photograph of her wedding day that she had kept on the windowsill. Her husband Bill died from cancer in 2009.

“It was pitch black,” she said. All you could hear was the water running. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was very frightened.” Britain’s environment secretary said climate change was making extreme weather events more common, but denied that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government was unprepared for such storms.

“We’ll never be able to protect every single household, just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme, but we’ve done everything that we can do with a significant sum of money, and there’s more to come, ” Environment Secretary George Eustice said.

In Germany, at least nine people were injured in weather-related car accidents as high winds brought trees down onto roads and train tracks.

In Trippstadt near the French border, the driver of a van and his six passengers were injured, some severely, when their vehicle ran into a fallen tree on Monday morning. In Rostock in northeastern Germany, two people were injured when their car crashed Sunday into a fallen tree, the news agency dpa reported.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2020