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The army should be brought in to help councils deal with devastating inner city flooding, according to an MP whose community bore the brunt of the weekend’s downpour.
Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, said homes on up to 100 streets and local businesses were flooded when up to a months’ rain fell in just three hours on Sunday. Whipps Cross Hospital in nearby Leytonstone declared a major incident with patients evacuated and operations cancelled.
Parts of Hackney, Wanstead and Stratford in East London were also hit by flooding during the torrential conditions. The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said today Boris Johnson takes climate change seriously and acknowledges it will lead to more extreme weather events like this.
The army could provide “extra hands on deck” and expertise in how to deal with multiple requests for assistance from residents, Creasy said.
“There are requirements under resilience planning about the use of military aid to civil authorities. We could have done with the expertise of the military on this, that logistical support,” she said.
“It was an extreme moment and we could have really done with that help. Local authorities should be planning for more climate related crisis and the government needs to fund them to do things that prevent it.
Creasy said that during “years of austerity”, cash-strapped councils had felt that planning for extreme crisis moments such as floods had been “one of the easiest things for local authorities to say we’ll have to scale that back to keep our basic budgets going”.
She continued. “We also have a Victorian drain infrastructure in London and local authorities who haven’t been able to fund clearing the gullies.
“There’s more rain on the way. I’ve been sourcing sand all day to try and help local people because they’re terrified.”
walthamstow if anyone has any spare sandbags, or sand to make them and bags! please get in touch as local small businesses in desperate need? thank you!
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) July 25, 2021
Creasy said there are questions to be answered over how regularly drains and gullies have been cleared.
Brook Road was one part of the borough where the water quickly became knee deep. MP Meg Hillier, who is chair of the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee said Sunday’s rainfall had been “devastating” for local residents and businesses. Her constituency, Hackney South and Shoreditch, includes Hackney Wick, where videos showing people wading through knee deep water.
Hillier said: “This has been devastating for local businesses and householders. The Public Accounts Committee has highlighted the challenges for local councils which are expected to mitigate against such events but whose funding has been cut dramatically.
“With so many agencies involved in managing flooding it’s vital the Government gets a grip, recognises that these are more frequent occurrences and provides the resources to support councils.
“Urban planning needs to encourage greener developments to allow flood water to be absorbed rather than the concrete developments which just exacerbate the impact of this inner city flooding.”
The Prime Minister’s deputy spokesperson said today that Johnson believes there will be more extreme weather events because of climate change. The floods in London came just days after temperatures hit 30C.
“I think it would be a matter for scientists to try and attribute an individual event, but the Prime Minister completely agrees that climate change is going to lead to more extreme weather events which is why we are doing what we are doing to try and reduce greenhouse gases, and why we are all pushing for COP26 to lead to as positive a change that we can,” they said.
Waltham Forest Council, which is responsible for Walthamstow, said on Twitter they were continuing to assist those residents that have had their homes flooded.
In a statement, they said: “Most residents are able to stay with friends and family but emergency rest centre provision is available and supporting people from across the borough.”
They also convened an emergency Gold response with London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Police due to the impact of exceptional levels of rain.
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