David Cameron has been confronted by angry residents who told him they had been “abandoned” after the Christmas storm left their village flooded.
The Prime Minister was told that more must be done to tackle the problems with flooding as he visited the village of Yalding in Kent, where 100 homes had to be evacuated over Christmas.
Erica Olivares said she had been without power since Monday and when she and others had tried to contact their local council for help as the floodwaters rose they had been unable to get through as staff had “decided to go on their holidays”.
During his visit, Mr Cameron had asked Ms Olivares what she needed and encouraged her to contact her council before she responded that she had tried.
Erica Olivares, one of the flood victims
In front of the cameras, she told him: “We still have no electric. We need electric. As I say, the council, from Monday, we have been trying to contact them, but they have all decided to go on their holidays. Nothing.”
She said that she had moved to the village after being assured by the council they were bringing in adequate defences following the last floods.
“I just told him what had happened and how we had been affected and also about how disappointed I was about how the local council had treated us.”
“We have had no help, especially over Christmas Day we were totally abandoned – we had no hot food, no hot drink, nothing. We were up to our waist literally in flood water the whole of Christmas Day.”
“Where does it stop? How many more times is it going to happen? Who is ever going to get flood insurance around here again? Nobody. But if they do, it is going to be so high that nobody will be able to afford it.”
As Mr Cameron moved between the houses he was confronted by a second villager.
The Prime Minister admitted that more needed to be done. He said: “Sandbags should be made available. Here they were given warnings. There were warnings from the Environment Agency but they weren’t always accurate but they did know flood action was coming.”
“Look at this man’s house, I was just talking to. That was a flood barrier he got after 2000 – quite a high flood barrier. But this was such a massive flood the water went over the flood barrier and into the house.”
“Sometimes these are very, very tragic events. It is impossible to protect everybody against everything but we have got to do more and we have got to do better.”
The tense scenes came as power firms struggled to restore electricity to thousands of homes after hurricane-force gales brought down trees and power lines and caused flooding in two storms over the Christmas period.
More than 8,000 homes in the UK, and 10,000 in Ireland were without power on Friday evening but energy companies were under fire for failing to re-establish supplies quickly enough after 50,000 were left without power on Christmas Day.
The Energy Networks Association (ENA) warned it could be some time until power is restored after Thursday night’s storm battered Ireland and the west of the UK, with a top recorded wind speed of 109mph in Aberdaron, West Wales, significantly hampering repair work.
ENA spokesman Tony Glover said: “The problem was that not only did we have a storm followed by torrential rain, but huge amounts of flooding afterwards.
“That impacted on our ability to get to the affected areas, and to get materials that we need.”
“It meant that we were not able to get cherry pickers to replace and repair damaged infrastructure. We simply cannot put a cherry picker in the middle of a lake.”
“We know that it is very tough and that it has been horrendous for people – I am not going to downplay it – but we are doing our best and working around the clock to help everyone who has been affected.”
A man paddles his canoe on a flooded property in Yalding
The Met Office continued to urge caution with a number of weather warnings on Friday and the rain and windy conditions are expected to last up to the New Year.
Hundreds of flights and train journeys were cancelled or delayed and police were warning people to take “extreme caution” when driving in the ferocious conditions.
On the roads, the Highways Agency closed the Humber Bridge to high-sided vehicles due to the winds and a lorry was reported to have overturned near Immingham docks, north of Grimsby.
The worst of the winds hit Ireland, Wales, the North and western Scotland, while rain fell on already soaked ground in the South East bringing more flooding misery.
Southeastern trains were warning journeys could still be cancelled or delayed at short notice, while Virgin, East Coast and Southern trains continued to warn of travel disruption.
There were no trains between London’s Victoria station and Gatwick Airport following a landslip near Ockley in Surrey.
Police and fire services across both the UK and Ireland reported road closures because of uprooted trees.
The Environment Agency (EA) was warning of more “significant disruption” across southern England.
But a spokesperson for the agency said overnight rainfall was less than expected, with around 10mm falling in the South East.
The spokesperson added: “The levels are still peaking for rivers with bigger catchment areas, such as the Stour through Canterbury and Ashford and the River Medway, which runs through Maidstone.”
Around 1,200 properties have been flooded so far, according to the EA, with 35 flood warnings and 103 flood alerts in place.
The highest ever water levels were recorded downstream of the Leigh Barrier, a large storage reservoir which protects Tonbridge in Kent from flooding.
A fallen tree in Toys Hill, Kent
Met Eireann imposed red alert warnings in the southern and eastern parts of Ireland, with Wexford, Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Kerry and Waterford experiencing the worst of the stormy weather.
AA Roadwatch described driving conditions on Ireland’s country roads as “treacherous” – and advised motorists to drive with extreme care.
An elderly couple were treated in hospital after an electricity pole fell on top of their Mayobridge home during the overnight storms, causing a fire which caused widespread damage.
The pair were in their home with their son when the pole hit the roof of the property.
Two other pensioners were also treated after the incident caused smoke and water damage to their home.
Tags: Angry flood
, david cameron