After the deluge

April 8, 2014

Somerset, Britain

By Toby Melville

After a wet and windy December, in January it rained. And rained. And rained. And it kept on raining. Pretty much for the whole month in southern parts of Britain.

February was no better, bringing heavy storms and high winds. The extreme weather claimed a handful of lives, and flooded thousands of homes.

This wasn’t a disaster anywhere near the scale of the typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013 or the Pakistan floods of 2010. It was nigh on negligible compared to the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 where over 200,000 people died in one of the worst natural catastrophes of recent decades.

However, for a small island with a temperate climate on the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean (and a country where discussing the weather provides a common bond and safe opening gambit for conversation, possibly even more than debating football) the winter floods and rains were a huge event.

Not only did the floods leave some areas under water for more than a month, they also caused havoc for farmers, and disrupted business and transport links, even washing away part of a major train line. And the rain just seemed to keep on coming.

Somerset in southwest England was particularly badly affected, especially in an region known as the Levels. As the water rose, some areas became cut off except by boat and many had to be evacuated from their homes as properties became partially submerged.

Politicians eventually responded with promises to provide relief funding, and the government announced projects to dredge rivers, rebuild and maintain flood defences and work on flood prevention.

But as the water levels receded in the worst affected areas, and homeowners return to their sodden properties to count the cost of the damage, it remains to be seen what words from politicians and campaigners will be effective, especially as the climate looks set to become even more unpredictable in Britain and throughout the world.





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