From: Stephen Hird, Reuters
Published July 23, 2007 12:00 AM

Floods Hit Southern Britain, Power and Water Cut

GLOUCESTER, England -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged more funds on Monday to tackle some of Britain's worst flooding for nearly 60 years as rising waters made thousands homeless and plunged entire towns under water.


"Our first priority is the safety and protection of our citizens," he told a press briefing at 10 Downing Street, his London residence.


Brown said money was being made available to help people caught out by rising floodwaters in the south of the country, the result of days of unusually heavy rain.


"We are also doing what we can to make sure the defences against further flooding are in place," he said, adding that Britain would have to look at improving its infrastructure to respond to such emergencies.


"Like every advanced industrial country we are coming to terms with some of the issues surrounding climate change."


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The government said it would raise the flood defence budget to 800 million pounds a year by 2011 from 600 million now.


Brown rejected criticism that his government and its agencies had failed to anticipate the latest floods, which came just weeks after heavy rains in northern England killed a number of people and flooded several towns.


"I think the emergency services have done a great job," he said. "I am satisfied people are doing everything they can."


Brown earlier flew over the county of Gloucestershire, where 70,000 homes have had water supplies cut and up to 140,000 may be affected in the coming days. More than 40,000 homes in the area had their electricity supplies cut early on Monday after a nearby power station was shut down.


Insurers estimate claims for flood damage could top 2 billion pounds, on top of an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of claims after the floods in June in central and northern England.


Nine severe flood warnings remained in force, large parts of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire in southern England were under water and authorities said river levels were still rising.


In some towns cars and trucks were abandoned after streets turned into waterways. Emergency crews in small boats have been handing out drinking water and evacuating the elderly and young.


More than 2,000 people spent Sunday night in emergency shelters and the Royal Air Force and coastguard helicopters were called in over the weekend to airlift hundreds to safety in one of Britain's largest peacetime rescue operations.


"I'm afraid to say that I don't think we have seen the peak yet," John Harman, of the Environment Agency, told BBC radio.


"All this water that we have seen ... is now into the river system. Even though the rain has eased off a bit ... it's the water in the rivers now that constitutes a threat."


Source: Reuters


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