Written by Staff Writer
10 Feb, 2014 | 3:07 pm
Several water gauges along the River Thames have measured record levels as flood waters continue to rise.
The agency’s chairman, Lord Smith, has hit back at critics, saying that his staff knew “100 times” more about flooding than any politician.
Speaking in the wake of comments by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, Lord Smith said his agency was “bound by the rules” of politicians.
He said: “I have kept my counsel up to now, but when I hear someone criticising the expertise and the professionalism of my staff in the Environment Agency, who know 100 times more about flood risk management than any politician ever does, I’m afraid I’m not going to sit idly by.
“The Environment Agency is bound by the rules that are laid down by government.”
Forecasters said Monday would be the driest day of the week but rivers could continue to rise as previous rainfall worked its way downstream.
Several Thames gauges are currently showing their highest levels since being installed in the 1980s and 90s.
As well as the Environment Agency’s 14 severe warnings – meaning “danger to life” – in areas in and around Staines, Egham, Chertsey and Datchet, there are also a further two warnings for the south-west of England in Salt Moor and East Lyng.
Downing Street has confirmed that Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to visit flood-affected areas in the South West later this morning.
Water levels in the South East are expected to rise despite the fact that significant rainfall is not expected during the day.
Armed forces personnel were in the heavily populated area on Sunday night building a 2ft-high (60cm) defence to try to divert the river away from homes.
Dave McKnight from the Environment Agency said: “There really is a danger to life in these severe flood warning areas on the Lower Thames. We’re still seeing the Thames slowly creeping up.”
And councillor Colin Rayner, from the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said: “We need help here. We need the police, we need the Army. We’ve got 50 volunteers here, we’ve got the vulnerable people out of their homes, now we need to get everyone else out.”
The flooding has also caused severe delays on several train lines.
Robin Gisby, managing director of Network Rail, said his team were watching “several hundred” sites across England carefully and monitoring the situation.
He said: “The Thames is rising now to levels not seen for many, many years.
16 Feb, 2014 | 11:05 AM
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