Emergency measures: Soldiers delivered sand bags to residents whose houses were in danger of flooding, as the river Severn rose to record heights in Gloucester, western England. *AFP photo
Emergency measures: Soldiers delivered sand bags to residents whose houses were in danger of flooding, as the river Severn rose to record heights in Gloucester, western England. *AFP photo

Flooding has damaged massive swaths of Britain. Danny McDonald takes a look at the havoc wreaked by historically awful weather in the UK.

So how bad is it?
The flooding claimed two lives in the country. Seven thousand properties in England and Wales lost power. More than 5,800 homes and businesses have flooded since the beginning of December. 

The Environment Agency has 16 severe flood warnings in place for southwest England and the Thames Valley. More than 3,000 troops are currently deployed to aid the flood-hit areas and 5,000 more are available if needed, according to the British defence minister.


Is that historically bad?

Rainfall and flooding are far higher than normal rates, although floods in 2000 and 2007 affected more homes. December was the sixth wettest December on record for the country as a whole.


When did the flooding start?

In early December, thousands were evacuated. England’s east coast experienced the worst tidal surge in six decades. High winds and heavy rains followed later in the month. December was one of the windiest months on record since January 1993.


But that was in December…

High winds, rain and strong waves continued in January, which was the wettest January in more than a century. Rainfall doubled the normal amount in large sections of southern England and parts of the Midlands.

February has seen the country battered by rain as well. A storm earlier in the month forced more people from their homes and left thousands without power and destroyed a railway.


What’s the response from government been like?

Many affected residents lamented the fact that certain rivers weren’t dredged earlier, a tactic that many say could have lessened the flooding. Britain’s defence minister, meanwhile, has said the flooded areas should have gotten help from the country’s armed forces sooner.


What happens now?

Royal Engineers will perform an assessment of the damage to Britain’s infrastructure in coming weeks. During the next four years, the British government plans to spend £2.4 billion on flood management and protection from coastal erosion.


Does climate change have anything to do with this?

According to Phillip Hammond, Britain’s defence minister, yes. He told the BBC, “It is clearly a factor in the weather patterns that we are seeing. That’s why we are investing significant amounts of money in increasing our flood resilience in the UK.”


What about the prime minister? How has he handled the situation?

More than half of British people polled recently have said UK Prime Minister David Cameron has mishandled the flood response. That number is more than double the number of people who thought he responded well to the crisis. 

Sources: The Guardian, BBC, CNN