Medium flood risk for England and Wales after Storm Babet death toll rose

Medium flood risk for England and Wales after Storm Babet death toll rose

The risk of flooding in England and Wales remains medium as at the peak of Storm Babet, reports of floods to the Environment Agency reached the highest level since 2015/16, a minister has said after the death toll from the storm rose to at least seven people.

The Environment Agency (EA) issued more than 300 flood warnings and received more than 1,800 calls to its flood line, environment minister Rebecca Pow told the Commons.

The number of people who have died in the wake of the storm rose to at least seven on Monday afternoon and hundreds of people have been left homeless, with about 1,250 properties in England flooded, the Environment Agency (EA) said.

Woman walking through floodwater carrying suitcase
Flood water in Retford in Nottinghamshire, after Storm Babet (Joe Giddens/PA)

The death toll rose as police recovered the body of a man after carrying out searches following reports that a person was trapped in a vehicle in floodwater near Marykirk, Aberdeenshire, on Friday.

Police Scotland said that formal identification is still to take place, however next of kin have been informed.

Ms Pow said investigations are expected into the flooding.

She said: “We know of some areas where the assets were overwhelmed, not having been designed for such rare, extreme levels of rainfall and we will of course be reviewing our response once the risk of flooding has passed and this will consider flood warning triggers and local mobilisation of assets.”

She also said local flood authorities in Horncastle will be investigating incidents and that other authorities are considering the same course of action elsewhere.

The minister estimated approximately 42,000 homes in England have been protected by flood defences.

Yellow weather warnings Oct 23-24 2023
(PA Graphics)

Ms Pow added that “significant” river flooding impacts remain “probable” in parts of South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and also more widely, as she confirmed further rainfall is expected later this week but “not on the same scale” and which is “not expected to lead to further significant flooding”.

A fresh weather warning for rain was issued earlier on Monday covering a vast swathe of England already hit by flooding.

The Met Office issued the yellow warning for “heavy rain”, which could lead to further flooding in the East Midlands, including Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, as well as much of Yorkshire, including Sheffield, Leeds and York, and Humberside.

A total of 13 areas broke their daily rainfall records for October last week, including sites in Suffolk, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Wiltshire, Kincardineshire, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northumberland, Derbyshire and Humberside, the Met Office said.

Autumn weather October 23rd 2023
Queen’s Drive Park & Ride in Nottingham, closed due to flooding (Callum Parke/PA)

Shadow environment minister Emma Hardy told the Commons on Monday: “It’s time that we ended the Tory practice of waiting for disaster to strike.

“While Government wants to pass off responsibility to other agencies, a Labour government would establish a Cobra-style flood preparedness taskforce to protect communities from the danger of flooding.

“We will plan for the long-term and co-ordinate central government, local authorities and emergency services to minimise the damage of flooding every single winter. Importantly before the flooding takes place.”

A general view of Tapton Terrace in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, showing the property where Maureen Gilbert, 83, was found dead on Saturday evening.
Tapton Terrace in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, where Maureen Gilbert, 83, was found dead on Saturday (Matthew Cooper/PA)

The Met Office warning, which is in place for between 3am and 4pm on Tuesday, said there is a “small chance” that homes and businesses could be flooded, that fast-flowing or deep floodwater could cause a danger to life and that some communities will be cut off by flooded roads.

The latest warning comes after 83-year-old Maureen Gilbert was found dead in her flooded home in Tapton Terrace, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, on Saturday.

Mrs Gilbert’s neighbours said five feet of water had engulfed the inside of their properties “within minutes” of the River Rother bursting its banks.

Answering a question from Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield, Ms Pow said the EA is working “very closely” with people in Tapton Terrace to “fully review what happened”.

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf visited Brechin, Angus, on Monday, where the storm hit hardest, with the River South Esk bursting its banks and flooding dozens of homes.

Mr Yousaf said there will be a “long road to recovery” for those affected by the storm.

He said the local council would receive the funding it needs to recover but the clean-up would take time.

Wendy Taylor, 57, died after being swept into the Water of Lee, Glen Esk, on Thursday.

Mrs Taylor, who was described as “the beloved wife, best friend and soulmate in life to George, mother to James, Sally and Susanna and Granny to India and George”, was said to be “a ray of sunshine for everyone who was fortunate enough to know her” in a tribute issued through Police Scotland.

Two women died after a five-vehicle crash on the M4 on Friday which is believed to have been weather-related.

Autumn weather October 23rd 2023
Flooded football pitches at Nottingham Power League in Thane Road (Callum Parke/PA)

Four cars and an HGV were involved in the crash on the eastbound carriageway between junction 17 for Chippenham and junction 18 for Bath.

A 56-year-old driver, John Gillan, died when a tree fell on his van near Forfar in Angus on Thursday and a man in his 60s died after getting caught in fast-flowing floodwater in the town of Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire, on Friday.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey visited flood-hit Retford in Nottinghamshire on Monday and said residents were asking “why stuff hasn’t happened” since the last major floods in 2007.

She told Sky News: “In that time, between 2015 and 2021 we’ve invested £2.6 billion in flood defences right across the country, that was over 300,000 homes.

“We’re partway through a programme of spending a further £5.2 billion over a six-year time period.”