Europe Storms 2014: United Kingdom Begins Cleanup After Floods

February 18, 2014

The United Kingdom turned to the daunting task of cleaning up after a powerful succession of storm systems left widespread flooding and damage behind. On Tuesday, Prime Minister David Cameron called the flooding a 'tragedy' and warned of more bad weather to come, reports the London Evening Standard. 

Cameron met with the Government's Cobra emergency committee and unveiled a massive fund to aid businesses as the huge clean-up operation began, reports BBC News. 

Much of England remained under flood warnings and alerts on Tuesday, according to the Environmental Agency. 

(MORE: Deadly Snow Event Pummels Japan)

Britain Floods

Low-lying land in southwestern England is seen flooded in this before-and-after animated image. The first image was taken in Nov. 2013; the second was captured on Feb. 16. (NASA Earth Observatory photo)

Last week, hundreds of homes along the Thames were flooded after the river overtopped its banks. An estimated 5,800 properties had been flooded and thousands of homes were evacuated. In Hertfordshire, a 20-foot-deep, 35-foot-wide sinkhole opened up Sunday morning and nearby homes were forced to evacuate.

Conservationists warn that the flooding could cause tremendous damage on wildlife and ecosystems, and that Britain could have an “absolutely devastating environment incident” on its hands, the Independent reported. The Environment Agency (EA) told the London Standard that parts of southern and central England could still face flooding because of high river levels after recent rainfall.

The BBC reported Sunday that the Army will inspect the U.K.'s flood defenses. The Environment Agency the Royal Engineers will start an assessment on February 24.

(MORE: Keep Up With Our Winter Weather Live Updates)

Thousands of military personal have already helped with flood relief efforts. The army was called in to rescue 30 people from a seafront restaurant in Hampshire southwest of London after high winds blew a shingle through its windows, allowing flood waters in.

On Friday, Prince William and Prince Harry helped flood-ravaged British villagers protect their homes, unloading sandbags alongside soldiers in a River Thames village. The princes, who have both served in the armed forces, joined a work crew In Datchet, west of London, on what aides said was a private visit.

Better weather on Monday allowed workers to recover hundreds of tons of debris from the River Severn in Worcester — including 30ft trees and a garden shed. In Somerset, the clean-up effort was hampered by problems with water pumps. 

Last week's storms killed at least three in the U.K. A taxi driver was killed late Friday in central London near Holborn subway station when part of a building collapsed during a windstorm, police said. She was identified as Julie Sillitoe, a 49-year-old with three sons. An 85-year-old cruise ship passenger died after 80-mph wind gusts kicked up giant waves in the English Channel on Friday afternoon, endangering safety in the crowded shipping lanes used by commercial vessels, cruise ships and pleasure craft. A 20-year-old pregnant woman and her unborn baby in Wales died in a car accident.

Bouts of rain, high tides and strong winds have pounded Western Europe — including England, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal — since December, marking a period of terrible winter weather the region hasn't experienced in ages.

Volunteers from the International Rescue Corps help a couple evacuate from a flooded house on February 16, 2014 in Chertsey, England. (Getty/Peter Macdiarmid)

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