UK’s Johnson Under Fire for Flood Response as More Rain Due

By Jill Lawless | February 21, 2020

LONDON — British authorities said Thursday that more rain will bring the risk of “significant flooding” in the coming days, as people in central England and Wales kept a close eye on swollen rivers that have already flooded hundreds of properties.

Criticism grew of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to the crisis, as experts warned climate change was increasing the risk of floods across the country.

The Environment Agency said England has already received 141% of its average February rainfall, while major rivers, including the Trent, Severn and Wye, have all set new height records. The U.K. Meteorological Office said more heavy rain is forecast over the next 48 hours.

“This is the third weekend we have seen exceptional river levels and stormy weather, and with the effects of climate change, we need to prepare for more frequent periods of extreme weather like this,” said Caroline Douglass, the Environment Agency’s director of incident management.

The agency imposed six severe flood warnings advising of a serious danger to life Thursday on the rivers Lugg, Severn and Wye. More than 100 less-serious flood warnings were also in effect.

The agency said “further spells of rain in northern England from Friday and into the weekend and early next week may lead to further significant river flooding.” It said “ongoing river flooding remains probable for the lower Severn for the remainder of the week.”

Storm Dennis _ the second major storm of the winter _ blew through the U.K. on Saturday and Sunday, bringing wind gusts of up to 90 mph (145 kph) and heavy rain that flooded roads, railways and hundreds of homes and businesses. The storm killed three people in Britain, including a 55-year-old woman who was swept away by floodwaters.

Johnson has been criticized by opponents for failing to visit any flooded areas or to convene a meeting of the government’s crisis committee, COBRA.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was visiting parts of south Wales on Thursday that were inundated when last-weekend’s Storm Dennis dumped up to 6 inches (150 mm) of rain.

“In refusing to visit flood-hit communities, nowhere-to-be-seen Boris Johnson is showing his true colors by his absence,” Corbyn said.

Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the government’s response and said Johnson was “leading the team.”

“Quite rightly, rather than having a sort of jamboree of media and your whole entourage going, he wants to help people by getting the funding to them,” Zahawi said.

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