Newspaper article International New York Times

Floods in North of England Prompt Call to 'Rethink' Defenses

Newspaper article International New York Times

Floods in North of England Prompt Call to 'Rethink' Defenses

Article excerpt

Roads are still under water as officials there have criticized the Prime Minister David Cameron's past efforts to block a flood- prevention plan.

Prime Minister David Cameron walked the flooded streets of York on Monday as Britain's Environmental Agency warned that the country needed "a complete rethink" of its flood defenses.

Thousands of people in the north of England spent another day dealing with what they called unprecedented flooding, with roads in York, in the northeast, and nearby Leeds still underwater and some electricity cut off. David Rooke, the deputy chief executive of the Environment Agency, said that "we are moving from known extremes to unknown extremes."

Some scientists speculated that the effects of climate change could be evident in a year of record flooding.

"We are having more severe floods in the U.K. than 10 years ago," said Reza Ahmadian, a lecturer on water management at Cardiff University. "This is not something just happening in the U.K. -- and we will see more and more of this."

He added: "We need to be more creative about flood defenses."

Mr. Ahmadian suggested that building temporary reservoirs for flood relief in less populated areas could be more effective than just building ever-higher and more expensive flood walls, which "just create further problems downstream."

Mr. Cameron, wearing waterproof boots during a visit to York, defended the government's record on flood defenses, saying that it had committed to spend 2.3 billion pounds, or about $3.4 billion, over the next six years, and that he would consider doing more.

"Let's have a look and see whether more needs to be done and whether the flood defenses need to be made even higher than they are already," he told Sky News. Over the weekend, he had deployed several hundred soldiers to help with flood defenses.

Officials in Leeds, about 25 miles southwest of York, criticized Mr. Cameron for not going there and said that his government had blocked a more expensive flood-prevention plan in 2011. Judith Blake, the Labour Party leader of the Leeds City Council, said that the government had favored the south of England over the north, echoing the Yorkshire Evening Post, which wrote on its front page on Monday: "A Northern Powerhouse is nothing when it is under several feet of mucky water. …

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