UK flooding: Boris Johnson sends in the Army to help affected towns

12 November 2019, 18:07 | Updated: 13 November 2019, 09:42

There are grounds for "cautious optimism" that the worst of the severe flooding that has hit some parts of the country is over - but there is "no cause for complacency", Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister, speaking after holding an emergency meeting to discuss the situation, urged people in flood hit areas to follow the advice of emergency services.

Mr Johnson said £2,500 would be made available to businesses affected by the flooding, while an extra 100 armed forces personnel would be deployed to assist recovery efforts.

Severe flooding hit parts of Yorkshire and the East Midlands last week, with areas around the River Don near Doncaster worst affected.

"The situation, I would say, is getting slightly better," Mr Johnson said.

"There are grounds for cautious optimism in the sense that the forecast today isn't perhaps as bad as it was yesterday.

"But we have to do absolutely everything we can to help the thousands of people who are affected."

The PM added that more flooding was a very real prospect in the days and weeks ahead.

"The ground is so waterlogged across large parts of the country, that we simply have to prepare for more floods this winter," he said.

"A huge amount of energy and effort is going into that right now."

Mr Johnson continued: "The worry for me is that there are some people who are continuing not to listen to the advice of the emergency services.

"I would just say to people - the emergency services do have sound advice. When they advise you to evacuate, you should do so."

He said the authorities were working "flat out" to respond to the flooding, adding: "I know there will be people who feel that that isn't good enough.

"I know there will be people who are worrying about the damage to their homes, who will be worried about the insurance situation, worried about the losses they face.

"All I want to say to those people is that there are schemes to cover those losses."

Opposition leaders have criticised the government's response, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branding it "woeful" and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson accusing Mr Johnson of not taking it seriously enough.

Mr Corbyn said if the flooding had happened in Surrey in the South East, it "would have been a very different story", as he claimed the government of "heavily favours London and the South East of England" when it comes to spending on flood defences.

Ms Swinson earlier visited areas submerged by the floods and called for a national emergency to be declared.

The PM rejected this criticism, saying the government had committed £2.6bn, a "huge amount", to flood defences.

He added: "It's only by having a robust government and a robust economy that's able to finance fantastic infrastructure that you're able to invest in long-term funding for flood defences as well as infrastructure, to say nothing of spending on the NHS and everything else."

"The whole country is protected, I don't know where that idea [spending on flood defences favours London and the South East] comes from."

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Reacting to the government's latest announcements, shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said it was "too little, too late".

"You can't trust Boris Johnson to look out for the North or the Midlands or protect our communities from flooding," he said.

"But Labour will provide an extra £5.6 billion in flood defence funding, to level up flood defences over 10 years.

"Every home ruined and every business destroyed demands we act now."

Downpours last week saw parts of Yorkshire and the East Midlands experience a month's worth of rainfall in a single day.

Hundreds of residents in Fishlake, near Doncaster, left the village as a result, while those who remained have faced waist-high floods.

The Environment Agency has downgraded five severe flood warnings that were in place on the River Don as levels start to fall.

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