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WMN OPINION: One family’s misery tells story of a nation’s failure

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 16, 2014

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The WMN today tells the story of the flooding misery through the eyes of the Langford family, evacuated from the Somerset village of Moorland in the middle of the night last week as the waters rose. They are living, as refugees from the floods, in Bridgwater,

15 miles from home. And, as they reveal today, they have been living through a roller coaster of emotions, from fear and distress through to anger and distrust.

They are not alone. Hundreds in the Westcountry, thousands across Britain as a whole, are similarly suffering. Some are hanging on in their homes, hoping and praying their efforts, with sandbags and other flood defences, will keep the rising waters at bay. Others have been forced to leave and are worried sick about what is happening to their homes and their possessions. Through it all the forecast remains bleak and the misery goes on.

At a basic level no one is to blame. The weather is the weather; it will do what it will do. But flood protection, flood prevention and measures to offset the worst effects of freak conditions are the responsibility of a range of organisations, from the Government, through bodies like the Environment Agency to local councils, right down to parish level. And it has become obvious, through the weeks of bad weather that their performance has been patchy. Many front-line staff with the emergency services and the Environment Agency have done great work; many individuals from community leaders to churchmen and women, have shown courage and kindness to help those in greatest need. But for every positive response to this crisis, we can point to shortcomings and failures.

Many of those failures have come, not as a reaction to the weather events but in the way we have prepared for them. It is patently obvious that far from building a robust infrastructure, able to stand up to the worst of the weather, we have allowed ourselves to be lured into a false sense of security. Whether it is failing to dredge the rivers on the Somerset Levels, neglecting to take seriously warnings about the railway line on the sea wall at Dawlish or keeping homes like the Langfords’ property at Moorland in Somerset dry, the authorities have fallen short. Once this crisis is past it will be the responsibility of the Government and all those agencies working with and for them, to build in resilience, so that the suffering this crisis has brought is not repeated.

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