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Gale's View - Flooded Homes


January 15th 2014

To date we have, in this corner of Kent, been extremely fortunate in respect of loss of power and flooding arising from the recent storms. I know of a couple of homes and businesses that have been seriously affected as a result of excessive rainfall and of some families living in relatively isolated areas that have lost electricity supplies over most of the holiday period and who have, as a result, had a miserable and memorable Christmas for all of the wrong reasons. Our hearts can only go out to those who have found themselves, particularly with young and excited children, unable to spend Christmas at home and with food and celebrations ruined.

Looking back we can see that what proved to be just the overture for a storm-force season hit the country at the end of the first week of December and battered Wales before ripping across the land through Kent and Essex and Norfolk and Suffolk.  At the time of writing the Thames Barrier has been raised, on consecutive tides since 2nd January, with the thirteenth consecutive closure taking place last week. (To register for the Environment Agency`s 24-hour flood-warning service call Floodline on 0845 988 1188).  Successive storms have brought down trees and power lines, flooded homes, breached sea defences and claimed lives across much of England. Those of us who lived through the 1987 hurricane that devastated Kent have to be thankful that we have been spared most, although for some not all, of the misery that others have been subjected to on this occasion.

That said, it now seems almost mandatory to seek to blame somebody for what used to be known as `Acts of God`.  The present Government has vastly increased the amount of money that is being spent upon flood defences but the fact remains that it is simply not possible to protect against every eventuality or caprice of nature. Yield to demands to protect one town with enhanced riverbanks and you may, as one of my constituents running a riverside pub observed to me, simply cause other  settlements to flood further downstream. The solution  is not as simple as opportunist politicians might wish it to be and it does not just involve throwing more money at the problem and I am gratified to know that the local Environment Agency is taking a regional approach  in reviewing what further action may be needed and undertaken  to protect Kent.

I am not remotely sanguine or complacent and once the storms have literally passed it will, of course, be necessary to learn lessons from the events of the past few weeks and to determine where responsibility for any avoidable failings may lie.  In the meantime, though, I think that we owe a huge debt of gratitude, nationally and locally, to the Environment Agency and to the police, the fire brigades, the RNLI and Search-and-Rescue and other emergency services and to the operatives of the power and water companies whose own family Christmases were put on hold as they have risked life and limb to seek to preserve the safety of others.

I have, myself, waded through flooded homes and seen the personal effects, the photographs and the irreplaceable family heirlooms, that have been lost forever and I have smelt the stench of food left rotting in powerless refrigerators and it is hugely distressing and none of it is pretty.  At the end of the day, though, life is more precious than anything and I would not personally wish to see one linesman killed or one emergency worker drowned in order to try to bring forward by a few hours a resolution that might more safely be achieved with patience.


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