Tonight: After the Floods

The floods are finally ebbing away leaving behind human misery and a clean-up bill of more than £1 billion.

More than 6,000 properties flooded and 20,000 acres of farmland were left under water after some of the worst weather Britain has ever seen.

Flooded fields
Parts of Somerset are still under water Credit: ITV / Tonight

The Tonight programme’s Fiona Foster visits hard hit communities and finds out what lessons need to be learned.

Su Burrows lives in Wraysbury, a small village next to the River Thames, in Berkshire. She hit the headlines with her impassioned pleas for help.

Lady in hi-vis jacket
Su appealed for help on ITV News at the height of the flooding Credit: ITV News

Su, a volunteer flood warden, tells the programme that local people felt abandoned as they fought to protect residents and homes from rising flood waters.

And at a public meeting held last week, residents demand that plans to construct a River Thames diversion channel around their village be speeded up.

Those plans are already too late for one couple. Harry Kibble and Sarah Howes have decided to leave the rented home they shared in Wraysbury for fear that the flood waters will return.

Tonight cameras follow them as they return to their home for the first time after evacuating. They have always lived in Wraysbury and feel desperate that they are leaving friends and fond memories behind.

CU blonde lady
Sarah Howes Credit: ITV / Tonight

One flooded family, the Vipers, of Egham, Surrey, couldn’t move out of their home after flood waters rose. They weren’t insured and will have to carry out repairs while remaining in situ. They’re organising a £20,000 loan to pay for it.

Floorboards stacked up
The Vipers' home resembles a building site Credit: ITV / Tonight

And the programme visits Somerset where flood victims lay the blame for their plight on the fact that dredging of the local rivers hasn’t been carried out for years.

Farmer James Winslade has just started the clean-up at his farmstead, though many of the fields where he would normally graze his beef cattle are still flooded.

CU man in tractor cab
James Winslade had to evacuate the cattle from his farm during the worst of the floods Credit: ITV News

There are no words in the English language really to describe how truly awful it is to be flooded. It can bring vast swathes of this country to its knees.”

– Mary Dhonau, Flood Protection Association

The Environment Agency has now promised to carry out dredging of the two rivers in the Somerset Levels just as soon as possible. That looks like starting next month.

And the Government has pledged more than a quarter of a billion pounds of new money to help with the clear up and for new flood defences.

Secretary of State at DEFRA Owen Paterson tells the programme that a Flood Re scheme being launched next year should help make flood insurance more affordable.

I think there will be cases where we have lessons to learn from some of these events. What we’re looking to do is see how we can better co-ordinate and really impress upon councils that we are there to help.”

– Owen Paterson, Secretary of State at DEFRA

Useful links:

Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Environment Agency

The Association of British Insurers

Know Your Flood Risk Campaign

National Flood Forum

Flooding on the Levels Action Group

Tonight: After the Floods is on ITV this evening at 7.30pm