STORM Angus, after ripping through the UK, has caused torrential downpours and flash floods that have destroyed homes, turned roads into rivers and left a ferry stranded at sea for 26 hours.
Families are furious that, once again, flood defences have failed, after the government has persistently refused to invest in proper protection. Not only that, but it has actually cut frontline Environmental Agency staff.
The fire service – after also suffering year-on-year cuts to staff, engines and fire stations – was stretched beyond belief. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said it received 230 emergency calls on Monday night alone and dealt with 157 incidents, including rescuing dogs from a kennel in Mossley.
Areas of Tameside, including Stalybridge, were also affected. Engineers worked through Monday night to restore power to 16,000 properties, while about 500 remained without power yesterday. The Environment Agency issued 27 flood warnings and 167 flood alerts.
Rail services are severely disrupted in the South West with the line closed between Taunton and Exeter. In Suffolk, the Orwell Bridge has been closed due to high winds.
A ferry with 150 people has finally landed at Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, south Wales after 26 hours at sea.
In Yorkshire, people living in the Calder Valley, including the town of Hebden Bridge which was devastated by flooding last Christmas, have been warned to expect the rivers to flood. In Devon, the train line between Tiverton Parkway and Exeter St David’s was severely damaged by floodwater, and the Tarka line was closed.
Meanwhile, the GMB union has demanded that the cuts to flood defences and frontline staff are immediately reversed. GMB said: ‘As Storm Angus slams the UK with 70mph winds, torrential downpours and floods GMB demands the Environmental Agency workers who provide such an important role in flood defence are properly resourced and maintained. In 2014, the government announced 1,400 job cuts in the department – and has shown no sign of reversing their decision.’
Stuart Fegan GMB National Officer said: ‘Theresa May must learn the lessons from previous Tory flood failures and keep the Environment Agency (EA) properly funded, staffed, and prepared to protect our country.
‘The EA is currently considering the feasibility of outsourcing our locks and weirs, as well as the GMB members who maintain them, to the Rivers and Canal Trust (RCT). Experts have questioned whether the RCT has the capacity to maintain our locks and weirs in the safe and diligent manner the British public is used to.
‘Our cherished lock and weir keepers provide a vital first defence against flood risk on major rivers and inlets and must be maintained to the highest level by the EA to give the best protections against these terrible floods. Storm Angus is yet another reminder of the previous stubborn and dangerous commitment to savage cuts in our flood defence personnel.’