Storm Desmond: David Cameron visits flood-ravaged areas in northern England
British prime minister calls damage 'horrific'
British Prime Minister David Cameron visited a swath of northwest England inundated by floods from Storm Desmond, as rescuers pulled people from waterlogged homes after record rainfall led to at least one death and swamped some 3,500 properties.
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Cameron's visit on Monday came amid criticism that 45 million pounds ($90 million Cdn) spent on flood defences after major floods in 2005 failed to hold back the deluge in Cumbria, the hardest-hit county. The area got a month's worth of rainfall in a day — about 34 centimetres.
Visiting a flooded home in the city of Carlisle, Cameron called the damage "horrific" and vowed to review flood defences.
Environment Secretary Liz Truss said that in the worst-hit towns and cities, water levels were half a metre higher than during the 2005 floods.
She said extreme weather events like the weekend deluge were "consistent with the trends we're seeing in terms of climate change."
While local leaders demanded an investigation, Floods Minister Rory Stewart defended the government, arguing that defences had slowed down the water to allow more time for evacuations.
"When you face, as we have now, probably the highest rainfall we have ever had in the United Kingdom, it is going to come over the top of defences," he said. "But what the defences do is they slow it down. It gives us more time, it's given people here more time to evacuate safely and it's meant that there's less water on the streets than there would have been if we hadn't had that defence in place."
The military has been called in, and has been helping evacuate people from their homes. Some 55,000 people were left without power, 40 schools were closed Monday and a main rail line between England and Scotland is likely to remain shut until at least Wednesday.
The same deluge battered southern Norway, causing floods, damaging property and closing roads. Iris Straume from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute said it was "the worst storm in 150 years."