October 12, 2005

Britons ignoring flood risk – Environment Agency

LONDON (Reuters) - Many Britons living in areas at risk
from serious flooding are failing to take precautionary
measures, the Environment Agency (EA) warned on Wednesday as
overnight downpours swamped parts of the country.

Five million people living in two million properties have
homes in flood risk areas, but more than 40 percent are unaware
of the threat, according to the agency's research.

"Although we're unlikely to see flooding in the UK like
that caused by the Boxing Day tsunami and Hurricane Katrina,
there is still a significant flood threat here from extreme
rainfall and coastal surges," said EA chief executive Barbara

The warning came as heavy rains lashed parts of Scotland,
Wales and northern England causing widespread flooding and
forcing many people to evacuate their homes.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency said the threat
of flooding across Scotland would remain for the foreseeable

The downpours also struck the area around the northern
English city of Carlisle, where three people were killed in
floods in January and 76,000 homes were left without

"There has been significant flooding across the county
which will make driving conditions hazardous," said a spokesman
for Cumbria Police.

Five years ago, Britain suffered its wettest autumn for 270
years, leading to some of the worst floods ever to hit the

Whole villages had to be evacuated as storms battered more
than 700 areas across Britain, leading to floods which damaged
10,000 homes. The agency said the total financial cost was more
than 1.3 billion pounds.

In August 2004, a flash flood destroyed much of the Cornish
village of Boscastle, sweeping cars into the sea while
residents had to be plucked to safety by helicopters from

Since 1999, the EA said, 20 people have died as a direct
result of flooding.

"There's a tendency for people to think 'it'll never happen
to me,"' said Young. "The fact is, it could: we just don't know
when. People in this country cannot afford to be complacent
about flood risk."

The agency's research found that two-thirds of people in
flood risk areas said they were unlikely to take any
precautions to protect themselves or their homes, while a third
did not know whether their insurance policies covered flood