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Flooding victims deserve better

The village of Kingsand in Cornwall is one of the communities that has borne the brunt of the recent storms and, in The Herald today, our writer Doug Gillon, who lives in the village, describes what it is like to be on the frontline of one of the greatest crises in British weather for more than 100 years.

The bay at Kingsand is usually a safe haven, but over the past few days he and his fellow villagers have watched waves break over four-storey houses. In some cases, the water has also smashed windows, torn doors off their hinges and threatened the lives of the residents. One was saved only by the quick thinking of his daughter. The residents of Kingsand have also had something else to endure in the past few days: the sight of David Cameron turning the village and its twin Cawsand into a photo opportunity in a hard hat.

To be fair, the Prime Minister is not the only politician who has appeared eager to be photographed in the disaster zone. Each party leaders has pulled on his wellingtons in the past few days. Perhaps they wish to avoid the fate of President George Bush, who was seen as remote and feckless when photographed looking down loftily from Air Force One at the flooding in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina.

In the past few days, Mr Cameron has also sought to prove he is "doing something" and, earlier this week, promised that money would be no object to provide relief to those affected by the flooding. In the hours that followed, however, it emerged even a promise of unlimited funds comes with limits. "I don't think there's a blank cheque," said the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin when questioned about the promise. Matters would have to be properly considered before money was spent on rebuilding infrastructure, he continued.

This mixed message is not helpful and another indication of a response to the floods that has been less than coherent. Equally disappointing has been the attempt to bat the blame for the crisis towards the Environment Agency. The agency, and its chairman Lord Smith, have not handled their PR with the greatest of skills but, even so, they did not deserve the less than subtle efforts of Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, to blame the flood response on the organisation.

What Mr Pickles omitted to say was that the Coalition Government had cut the agency's maintenance budget used to dredge rivers, among other things. The Government has also cut the money it spends on flood defences.

Reversing these decisions, and investing in greater planning for the next episode of extreme weather, would be a much more useful response than more pictures of Mr Cameron in a wellies; so, too, would a genuine commitment to tackle the underlying causes of the floods.

We know extreme weather events are likely to be caused by climate change and the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that the rate of that change has barely slowed.

It is a real problem which the residents of Kingsand are dealing with right now. It is also a problem many millions will face in the future.

Contextual targeting label: 
Weather

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