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Drowning In Ignorance: UK Government Ignored Flood Warnings

(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — Sounds of a slow hand clap are echoing throughout Britain after revelations that the government previously rejected warnings of flood risks from its own advisers. As torrential rain triggered yet more flooding in northern towns, a report revealed that ministers made a decision not to address increasing risks back in October.

Weeks of devastating weather systems across the world have resulted in hundreds of soldiers being dispatched across northern England to help emergency teams fight rising river waters. Persistent rainfall has deluged towns and cities, leaving swathes of northern England uninhabitable and thousands without power. Some have become flood casualties for the third time since 2005 in what is rapidly becoming an annual event in the U.K.

Yet it seems the U.K. learns nothing.

In June, a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) claimed the British government’s most serious failure has been inaction in addressing flooding from extreme weather. The report stated that plans and policies in addressing vulnerabilities are lacking and ministers warned they must take action to protect the increasing number of homes at high risk. The CCC recommended the government should “develop a strategy to address the increasing number of homes in areas of high flood risk.”

Yet in October — just weeks before the pre-Christmas floods in Cumbria and the most recent flooding in Lancashire and Yorkshire — the government responded with this:

We believe that a strategy to address future residual risk would not be appropriate at this time.

In his scathing article,  “A Storm of Ignorance,” George Monbiot argues the British government’s failure to make the connection between flooding and climate change is ensuring that catastrophes like the Cumbria floods will keep recurring: “Nothing is learnt, crucial discussions are avoided or buried. We are drowning in ignorance; ignorance manufactured by an illiterate media and a hostile government.”

As massive budget cuts and flimsy flood defenses turn streets into rivers, the question of compensation for victims of this year’s devastation has begun. After losing homes, belongings, and businesses numerous times, many are denied insurance or subjected to high premiums through no fault of their own. After the 2009 floods, 25,000 claims were made to insurers and £174 million was paid out to victims of a problem likely to become more severe in the years ahead.

No amount of money can compensate for living with anxiety over when your home will be destroyed again. Until the U.K. government stops burying its head, ignoring advice, and moves to adopt strategies to deal with the risks, pay-outs to victims are simply rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

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Michaela Whitton

Michaela Whitton