Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Dealing with the Floods

This morning, I visited Elmbridge Borough Council's (EBC) floods operations room at the civic centre in Esher. I heard from Rob Moran, the Chief Executive, and talked to officers on the challenges of making people aware of the changing flood risk, distributing sandbags, contacting the elderly and vulnerable and - where required - supporting temporary evacuation (with help from Surrey Fire and Rescue). Flooding levels in Elmbridge have started to come down, but may rise again temporarily, if we have heavy rain over the next 48 hours. The EBC team are doing a great job in difficult circumstances - as recognised by many residents.

John O'Reilly, the Leader of EBC, and I then visited a few of the worst hit areas in Thames Ditton and Walton/ Sunbury, guided by EBC officers. The immediate task is to protect homes and businesses at risk of water penetration, as much as possible, and ensure residents who have had enough can be temporarily evacuated. I was struck by the professionalism of the council team, and the stoicism of residents. 

The rising river levels and consequent flooding is the highest for at least a generation, and it is clear we are better protected than in the past. Still, as Elmbridge and Britain experience more extreme weather conditions, for the longer-term we will need to look again at further strengthening our local community resilience.

Sandbags being delivered in Thames Ditton ...

... and the doughty residents of Thames Ditton island
deploy wading clothing and canoes to access their homes ...

... while homes near Wheatleys Ait have been cut off by local flooding.


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