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Flood-hit farmers say officials 'slow to help'

Time and date:2010-12-5 17:23:32  author:Press center7   source:Press center5  view:  comment:0
Content summary:Farmers say the Environment Agency has not put pumps in place in time to drain flooded land. part-time

Farmers are angry at the Environment Agency's "slow response" to pump out water from their flooded fields.

West Yeo Farm owner James Winslade from Somerset found his land flooded by 3ft (0.91m) overnight.

He said it could take officials seven to 10 days to put in place water pumps and blamed "red tape and paper work" for the delay.

Ian Withers, from the Environment Agency (EA), said they will "learn from the situation and do better".

"We met Mr Winslade last night and explained the situation," Mr Withers said.

"The success of pumping water out of the moors relies on the rivers having capacity to receive the water, and currently the intense rain means they are full."

Several flood warnings are in place on the Somerset Levels and firefighters saved a mother and her six-month-old baby from a vehicle stuck in flood waters on Saturday.

"The last few weeks have been a challenge. The moor filled up very fast," Mr Winslade, whose farm is near Burrowbridge, said.

"On the 7 January the trigger points were met and we thought the pumps would be installed straight away.

"But the EA then turned around and said it would be within seven to 10 days of the trigger points being met when they'll install the pumps.

"Our moor flooded within three days and we still don't have any pumps."

He said he represents his local farming community in saying the EA's response "has not been quick enough".

"We've been told protocols have to be met and paper work needs to be signed off," he added.

"It's people's livelihoods that are going under water. We've lost grass seed, corn to feed the cattle in the winter and it's a massive cost.

"It has definitely a taken a toll on the older generation. People aren't sleeping."

Bryony Sadler, a member of Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG), added that "people were on a knife edge" in the area because when they see water they are immediately taken back to 2014, when there was very bad flooding.

She added: "We've got to sort out more dredging and funding and we need to go back to sort these trigger points systems to make sure pumps come in quicker in places because the rate that the water is coming in so quick, way quicker than in 2014."

Mr Withers said: "We have used every single minute of every opportunity we have to keep the levels in the moors as low as possible."

He added the EA will need to revise their models and responses as weather gets more extreme due to climate change.

"The way that rain falls is changing, there are no longer steady periods of rain, but instead, they are more intense and shorter," he said.

"The system has responded much faster, we can learn from that and do better when the rain comes more quickly.

"We are seeing more intense seasons...and that is different from the past."

The EA, which explained pumping depends on the water level in rivers, added that additional pumps at Northmoor and Currymoor could become operational later.

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