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Somerset flood funding 'big step forward'

Somerset County Council has welcomed new funding to protect the area from floods. Credit: Dan Rivers/ITV News

A £20m package to protect the Somerset Levels from flooding is a “big step forward”, the head of the county council has said.

John Osman welcomed the move from ministers, which he said was “bringing hope to our flood-hit communities”.

Read: PM urged to back £100m flooding protection plan

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£20m to prevent flooding in Somerset

Residents in the Somerset Levels have suffered severe flooding in recent months. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Environment Secretary has announced a £20.5m package to help protect the Somerset Levels from flooding.

Owen Paterson said the 'key thing' for local people was that the Rivers Tone and Parrett would now be dredged as soon as possible.

Read: PM urged to back £100m flood protection plan

Cameron urged to back £100m flooding protection plan

The Prime Minister is being urged to back a £100 million package to protect the Somerset Levels from more devastating floods.

The flooded Somerset Levels in South West England last month. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who will deliver the 20-year plan to Downing Street later, said he was confident the Government would support the measures.

"The Prime Minister made it very clear that money would be no object on this," he sad.

"If we are going to secure the Levels for the future we are going to have to do this.

"We are one of the biggest economies in the world. We can afford it.

"The Prime Minister is fully aware of the cost of putting the Levels back and securing it."

An action plan from residents calls for a new tidal barrier at Bridgwater, raising the level of key roads and extensive dredging of rivers.

Insurance giant reveals £60 million in flood claims

The insurance giant Aviva has revealed it is handling £60 million of claims from damage caused by the UK's floods and storms so far this year.

But despite the wide-scale disruption, the firm said the figure is in line with the amount it normally sets aside for weather events in January and February.

Costs caused by devastating floods. Credit: PA

Chief executive Mark Wilson said: "Our overriding focus is to help our customers affected by the bad weather and our teams of loss adjustors, surveyors and claims experts - the largest in the UK - have been on hand seven days a week, offering advice and support."

Among other insurers, Direct Line Group has said it is expecting a hit of up to £110 million from the storms and floods since the start of the year. The December storms in the UK had a £60 million operating profit impact, although this was offset by better weather earlier in the year.

Raccoon found safe and well after daring escape

An escaped raccoon has been found five weeks after her escape from the Tropiquaria wildlife park in Somerset.

Missy the raccoon (not pictured) escaped from her Somerset enclosure after the ground softened due to flooding
Missy the raccoon (not pictured) escaped from her Somerset enclosure after the ground softened due to flooding Credit: C3587 Ronald Wittek/DPA/Press Association Images

The 18-month-old raccoon, named Missy, had burrowed out of her enclosure after the ground softened due to flooding.

She was discovered sleeping in a disused building behind the Tropiquaria enclosure, and could only be tempted back into her cage by her favourite dog biscuits.

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VisitEngland: Business as usual for tourism after floods

The tourism infrastructure has been largely unaffected by flooding, VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford said, as the Government pledged another £2 million to support local businesses.

Mr Berresford added: "Our message to customers is 'Business as usual'. Despite many areas having been affected by bad weather and some travel disruption, the tourism infrastructure is largely unaffected."

Government pledges £2 million to support tourism businesses affected by floods. Credit: Friso Gentsch/dpa

Tourism industry to get back on feet through flood fund

Tourism businesses affected by the floods are to be given £2 million of Government support fund to "get back on their feet as quickly as possible", the Culture Secretary said.

Maria Miller said: "Experts will be put on the ground to help small businesses with practical advice and communications while a bespoke Easter marketing will bring people back to the areas hit."

Culture Secretary Maria Miller. Credit: PA

Tourism businesses to get £2m flood support fund

Tourism businesses affected by the floods are to get a £2 million Government support fund.

Announced by Culture Secretary Maria Miller today, the fund will enable experts to visit flood-hit areas to give practical advice and support to tourism firms.

Waves crash against the promenade in Aberysthwyth, Wales. Credit: PA

The experts will help tourist bosses to communicate effectively with their customers online, give advice on what business support measures are available and how to access them, and marketing their businesses so that tourists know what is still on offer.

The advice sessions for the affected businesses will be hosted by VisitEngland and run throughout March. The fund is in addition to the £10 million, to help flood-hit businesses generally, announced by the Prime Minister on February 17.

Read: Flood-hit farms given £5,000 government grant

Record 435mm of rain fell from December to February

A spokesman for the Met Office says it has been the wettest winter on record across England and Wales - where the precipitation records date back to 1766.

Some 435mm (17.1 inches) of rain fell from December 1 to February 24, beating the previous highest total of 423mm (16.6 inches) set in 1915.

Provisional rainfall figures show that the UK as a whole has had its wettest winter since records began in 1910.

Some 517.6mm (20.3 inches) of rain fell this winter, the previous highest total was 485.1mm (19.1 inches), set in 1995.

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