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Environment Agency vows to minimise flood risk

Pumping in Wraysbury, Berkshire Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The Environment Agency cannot protect all people and all properties but will do all it can, the executive director of flood and coastal risk management at the agency has said.

David Rooke said the wet weather would continue this week but the agency was working hard to ensure the impact was minimal.

"We have got high tides this week and rainfall. The Environment Agency is still in operation mode doing all we can to minimise risk. We cannot protect all people and all properties but we will do all we can."

He said 6,500 properties were flooded this winter but more than 1.3 million properties were protected and the agency was undertaking emergency repairs across the country.

In Somerset, Mr Rooke said a massive pumping operation was under way after south and south west England saw record ground water levels.

The director's comments were supported by Professor Jim Hall, director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. Professor Hall called for a package of measures to be adopted to manage flood risk but said we had to admit "we cannot prevent against every risk".

The professor of climate and environmental risks added: "The 2007 floods were a wake up call after 350,000 people were left without water and 42,000 without electricity. Major steps have been taken since then (but) in some senses, we still seem to be in a mode of discovery by disaster.

"Adapting to a changing climate is still a work in progress."

Their comments come after the Met Office announced the UK suffered its wettest winter since records began in 1910.

Figures for December 1 to February 19 show the UK has had 486.8mm (19.2 inches) of rain, making it the wettest winter in records dating back to 1910, beating the previous record set in 1995 of 485.1mm (19.1 inches).

Mr Rooke confirmed the agency's promise that dredging would take place on the Somerset Levels but it was only "part of the solution not the full solution".

"With the money the government has now given us, we awarded a contract to start dredging as soon as it is safe to do so," he said.

It is hoped dredging in the area will start next month.

Professor Roger Falconer, director of the Hydro-environmental Research Centre at Cardiff University, added he hoped to see more engineers involved in work to prevent and reduce the impact of flooding in the UK.

"I would like to see the money spent on civil engineering issues. It would be very good if engineers took a more responsive role and we should encourage people to get advice from civil engineers," the professor of water management said.