UK floods: £100k-a-year Environment Agency boss promised to put wellies on and lead crisis. Instead he’s in Barbados – live

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More misery on the way with Storm Frank
Police in West Yorkshire warn of thefts
Follow Storm Frank with our live tracker
Environment Agency admits boss is in Barbados
Agency previously said he was 'at home'
Cost of flooding could reach £5bn
PM heckled during visit to flood-hit York
In pictures: northern England under water

17:12

Bridge which has stood for 184 years collapses after flooding

A 184-year-old bridge has collapsed as a result of the torrential flooding in Calderdale.

Grade II listed Copley Bridge, near Halifax, West Yorks., was built in 1831 by Richard Kennett-Dawson, the last lord of the Manor of Copley.

Dramatic pictures show some of the bridge still standing but much has succumbed to the record river levels recorded across the weekend.

Many areas in Calderdale have been flooded including Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse, Halifax, Mytholmroyd and Todmorden.

Copley Bridge has collapsed as a result of the torrential flooding in Calderdale

16:43

Temporary flood barriers in place

Temporary flood barriers are being used to try and halt the flow of water in flooded towns and villages. The army have been installing two types of barriers – sectional and frame barriers.

Lightweight sectional metal barriers are relatively inexpensive and can be placed in various configurations and removed completely when waters recede.

Frame barriers consist of rigid frames holding an impermeable membrane and use the weight of the floodwater itself to hold the barrier in place.

Temporary barriers can also be added to existing permanent flood defences, such as raised embankments, increasing the level of protection.

The Environment Agency has transported over three kilometres of temporary flood barriers and more than 20 extra pumps to the north of England.

Interactive:
Temporary flood barriers

15:21

Army veterans help Yorkshire's elderly

Dozens of armed forces veterans have volunteered to help flood-hit communities in North Yorkshire recover by clearing up damage and assisting the elderly.

Nearly 50 veterans, based in Tadcaster, are helping clear houses, fill sandbags and co-ordinating the communities response to the disaster.

Civilian aid group Team Rubicon work with volunteers from Islamic charities to provide assistance to flooded towns in CumbriaCivilian aid group Team Rubicon work with volunteers from Islamic charities to provide assistance to flooded towns in Cumbria Photo: PA

They are working for a charity called Team Rubicon, which is based on a similar initiative in the US.

General Sir Nick Parker, the former head of the army, said that veterans represent a a "fantastic national asset".

He said: "The main thing is to get groups of disciplined men and women who can act well in an emergency, respond in conditions which others may find difficult.

"People who can fill sandbags at times of difficulty, empty houses. Ex servicemen are excellent at that type of thing.

The key thing is that they have got proper organisation, that they don't become part of the drama themselves."

14:58

York, by canoe

One man explores the historic city in his boat:

14:16

Farron wades into flooding debate

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has called on the Government to commit additional funding to repair infrastructure damaged in the latest areas to be hit by floods.

In a letter to Chancellor George Osborne, Mr Farron said an initial fund of £50 million was just 10 per cent of the estimated £500 million of damage wreaked by Storm Desmond in Cumbria earlier this month.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, poses with HQ staff in a photobooth at their Christmas Party in LondonTim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, poses with HQ staff in a photobooth at their Christmas Party in London Photo: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

He urged the Chancellor to match funding raised by the flood appeals for people in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester up to £2 million, in the same way he did for Cumbria.

He also called for ministers to set a date for the Government's review of flood defence projects and extend the remit of the National Infrastructure Commission to consider how the country could be protected from floods in the long term.

"The Government's approach to flood defences is short-sighted," he said.

"The Prime Minister pulling on his wellies, wading through some water for a photo op and doing a couple of interviews does not make people believe he is doing enough.

"He needs to show he cares about the North by following up his words with deeds."

14:00

Lunchtime summary

Up to 80mm of rain is expected to fall on already water-logged ground tonight and tomorrow as Storm Frank comes in from the west later.

The weather warning from the Met Office also includes wind with gusts of up to 60mph expected.

But so far it has been the calm before the storm today.

However, one man caught up in a storm already is Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley who it was reported this morning was sunning himself in Barbados with his family.

When asked to confirm this, the EA were at best cagey and simply said he was "at home", before later admitting "at home" meant on the Caribbean paradise island.

A storm officially named by the UK and Irish Met Offices as Storm Frank approaching the British Isles in the wake of 'unprecedented' rainfall associated with Storm EvaA storm officially named by the UK and Irish Met Offices as Storm Frank approaching the British Isles (right) in the wake of 'unprecedented' rainfall associated with Storm Eva Photo: Atlas Photo Archive/NASA

Questions also continue to be asked about the levels of government spending on flood defences in the north following claims yesterday that this scale of devastation would never have been allowed to happen in the south.

Floods minister Rory Stewart has defended the government's stance saying: "We are spending an enormous amount of money on flood defences. In the end what is beating us is this relentless rain."

He also warned there could be a "very bad situation" on Wednesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, repair work has been carried out in Yorkshire , communities have tried to clear up the mess and in some areas water levels have fallen.

In York, the crucial Foss Barrier, for example, is now operational again and helping keep the Ouse and Foss rivers under control.

Finally, West Yorkshire Police sent out a warning about looting in the Calderdale Valleys.

13:58

Daredevil jet-skis down waterlogged road

The floods have thrown up some bizarre sights – but surely none more crazy than this.

Watersports fan Ben Varey, 28, donned his dry suit and a Santa hat and jet skied down a flooded road in Castleford, Wakefield.

Car park advisor Ben, from Leeds, decided to take his jet ski out when the floods hit the region on Boxing Day.

The stunt was filmed by Ben's friend Alex Shires, and the video has now gone viral – clocking up more than 155,000 views in just three days.

Ben, who took up jet skiing as a hobby two years ago, said: "I decided to make the most out of a bad situation.

"I normally take my jet ski to a specially adapted watersports den in Preston, but when the flooding hit Yorkshire I just decided to go out before it got even worse. I mentioned it to my girlfriend on Boxing Day morning and she thought I was nuts.

"I headed to Barnsdale Road, which is a main road and there are no houses for a mile or so, so I knew I wasn't putting anyone in any danger.

"The water was about two-and-a-half feet deep, but in the shallowest areas it was only half a foot. I normally ride a jet ski in 10-15ft water, so it definitely felt different to what I am used to.

"There weren't many people around so I didn't see anyone's reaction. I heard a man had just ridden down the same street on a push bike – I would have loved to see that!'"

Alex rode the jet ski at 20 miles an hour before packing it back into his van and driving it back home.

Alex said: "Jet skiing in the floods was definitely a one off, but I think it would be a great mode of transport to help the people who have been affected.

"The video has been viewed on Facebook thousands of times and there have been mixed reactions. Some people have said what I did was dangerous, but I had the right gear on and I knew it was safe. I would never put anyone in danger.

"The flooding in the area is just awful, I have friends who have been caught up in it and it's terrible. I feel so sorry for them. All you can do is protect yourself."

13:51

It never rains, but it pours for Sir Philip

This time last year Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency, gave an interview saying he promised to get his wellies on quickly and visit the scene of any serious flood the UK suffers under his watch.

Shortly after taking over, Sir Philip said he has learned from the misfortune of his predecessor, Lord Smith, who faced deafening calls for his resignation after he failed to visit the flood-ravaged Somerset Levels until six weeks into the crisis last winter.

“He did go down to Somerset. Could he have gone earlier? In hindsight, of course he could have gone earlier,” he said. “But in reality, while it’s good to be seen and it’s good for public perception to show visible leadership, it wouldn’t have made any real difference to what happened to the people that suffered through their homes getting flooded.

“That must be a terrible thing to experience. And frankly whether Chris Smith is there in his wellingtons, or I’m there in my wellingtons, isn’t really going to make much difference.”

But asked if he would get down to the Somerset Levels quicker than Lord Smith if we had a repeat of the floods, Lord Dilley reportedly smiled and said “probably”. “I chair the board of the agency and I agree there is a sort of figurehead position that is crucial for perception."

So where is the £100k-a-year Sir Philip now Yorkshire is under water?

On a beach in Barbados.

Now that is unfortunate.

13:33

How have York's tourist attractions fared?

Not well, is the answer.

The York Art Gallery, Yorkshire Museum and York Castle Museum have reopened after closing and York Minster is opening its doors free of charge for “some peace amongst the flood chaos”.

However, the JORVIK Viking Centre, housed in a basement below Coppergate Shopping Centre, has been flooded and remains under around 50cm of water.

The severe flooding in York has caused major flooding to the city’s JORVIK Viking CentreThe Jorvik Viking Centre in York has been inundated with floodwater Photo: Ross Parry / SWNS Group

The centre tweeted this morning:

If anybody knows anyone who can loan us some pumps to start the removal of water from JORVIK please tweet us.

— JORVIK Viking Centre (@JorvikViking)
December 29, 2015

For more, read this piece by our travel expert Hugh Morris.

13:07

Floods minister defends government spending

12:41

Who is Sir Philip?

12:20

Gas mains explodes in Greater Manchester

Enough about hot tubs and Yorkshire Tea.

Here is a video showing the moment a gas main explodes during floods in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester:

12:05

Returned to its owner: One hot tub

One of the more bizarre Facebook appeals in recent days has concerned this hot tub, which washed up on the side of a canal in Elland, in West Yorkshire.

Thankfully, it has been returned to its owner after details of its appearance were posted up on the Calderdale Flood Aid page.

Facebook appeal from Elland hear Halifax, West Yorkshire, appealing for the owner of a hot tub which has landed on the canal tow pathPossibly the oddest piece of flotsam found in the aftermath of the recent floods is this lonely hot tub. The luxurious deep bath ended up perched on the side of a canal in Elland, West Yorks. Photo: Ross Parry / SWNS Group

Paul Boothroyd, a member of the group, posted: "We got the hot tub out about 10 good lads turned out from the canal on way back to its rightfull owner."

11:54

Ey-up, fancy a brew?

Nothing gets in the way of a nice cuppa, especially in Yorkshire.

Workers from a taxi firm enter their premises with a teapot and cups of tea, which they have got from a neighbouring wine bar, through the floodwaters from the rivers Foss and Ouse, after they burst their banks in YorkPeople struggle through the floodwater in York after the rivers Foss and Ouse burst their banks Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

11:24

Finally, Sir Philip has been found

Yet another updated statement from the EA:

"Sir Philip Dilley is at home with his family, who are from Barbados, over Christmas.

"He is keeping in regular touch with the Environment Agency on its response to the current flooding, and available to participate in any necessary discussions.

"He has been in Barbados where his family are from and we’re expecting him back in the UK in the next 24 hours."

Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment AgencySir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency

So, he IS in Barbados.

Has the Environment Agency been deliberately misleading us?

11:10

Where exactly is Sir Philip?

Gordon Rayner has been pressing the Environment Agency for the latest on Sir Philip Dilley's whereabouts.

They are being rather coy.

A spokesman said: "Sir Philip Dilley is at home with his family, who are from Barbados, over Christmas. He is keeping in regular touch with the Environment Agency on its response to the current flooding, and available to participate in any necessary discussions."

But that doesn't exactly answer the question.

We have, of course, asked the EA to clarify whether this means Sir Philip is in the UK, Barbados, or elsewhere.

More to follow…

10:47

Britain's worst storms – in 90 seconds

10:30

Foss Barrier operational again

Some good news at last for York.

The crucial Foss Barrier, which was closed on Boxing Day after its pumping station became "overwhelmed" by flood water, has been repaired, the Environment Agency has just revealed.

As a result, the river's water level is finally going down.

The Foss Barrier, #York is now operational + in the closed position pumping water from the R. Foss into River Ouse pic.twitter.com/ADcmNGCfhW

— Env Agency Yorks&NE (@EnvAgencyYNE)
December 29, 2015

The barrier, at the point where the river Foss flows into the river Ouse, was built in 1987 and is designed to be lowered when the Ouse levels rise, to prevent water from the Ouse flowing upstream into the Foss.

Its closure resulted in more than 600 properties being flooded and the agency said that if the electrics in the pumping station had failed with the barrier down, the Foss would have been blocked off entirely with even worse flooding as a result, potentially affecting 1,800 properties.

Meanwhile, it seems floods minister Rory Stewart has been at the scene:

At Foss Barrier now – 4 pumps now working. Foss coming down. Huge thanks to Phil + Adrian from @EnvAgencyYNE for work through night

— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK)
December 29, 2015

10:02

Cameron: Our hearts go out to those affected

09:53

Agency boss caught in his own storm

Our chief reporter Gordon Rayner has been looking into this morning's controversy surrounding the head of the Environment Agency.

Sir Philip Dilley has apparently been sunning himself on a beach while the north of England floods.

He says:

Quote The Environment Agency seems to have been caught on the hop by claims that chairman Sir Philip Dilley is in Barbados.

On Monday the official statement from the Environment Agency was that: "Sir Philip Dilley is at home with his family over Christmas."

Today the EA was unable to confirm whether "at home" meant he was in London or at his other "home" in Barbados. Its press office is urgently trying to ascertain his whereabouts.

It would appear that if Sir Philip is in Barbados, not many people at the EA were told he was going there.

09:52

In pictures: Today's clean-up

More images both of the misery being suffered and the incredible community spirit on show in Britain's flood-hit areas:

United Kingdom. Severe flooding has affected large parts of northern England, with homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire evacuated as rivers burst their banks. More heavy rain is forecast as dozens of severe flood warnings remain in place.Volunteers take a ruined sofa for collection on Tadcaster High Street in Cawood Photo: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

United Kingdom. Severe flooding has affected large parts of northern England, with homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire evacuated as rivers burst their banks. More heavy rain is forecast as dozens of severe flood warnings remain in place.People use a canoe to paddle to a property through floodwaters from the rivers Foss and Ouse, after they burst their banks in York Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

United Kingdom. Severe flooding has affected large parts of northern England, with homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire evacuated as rivers burst their banks. More heavy rain is forecast as dozens of severe flood warnings remain in place.Rescue teams help with the flood relief effort after the rivers Ouse and Foss burst their banks in York Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

United Kingdom. Severe flooding has affected large parts of northern England, with homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire evacuated as rivers burst their banks. More heavy rain is forecast as dozens of severe flood warnings remain in place.Jarnail, Rani and Gopal Singh, volunteers with Khalsa Aid have been giving out food to villagers in the flood-hit Lancashire village of Croston Photo: Lauren Brown/PA

United Kingdom. Severe flooding has affected large parts of northern England, with homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire evacuated as rivers burst their banks. More heavy rain is forecast as dozens of severe flood warnings remain in place.Inundated vehicles as water begins to recede in the Huntington Road area of York after the River Foss burst its banks Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

09:42

Flood minister: 'Very bad situation on the way'

More from floods minister Rory Stewart, who appeared on the Today programme this morning.

He warned there could be a "very bad situation" on Wednesday and Thursday.

Asked how worried he is about the forecasts for Storm Frank, Mr Stewart said: "Very concerned. These emergency services personnel have been working really hard, so have volunteers.

"I'm now working my way across Yorkshire, heading back up to Cumbria. People have barely had a break for three-and-a-half weeks because this has been going continually since early December.

"As you say, there's another front coming in, there could be more flooding again so we really need emergency services, voluntary groups, mountain rescue to rest, to be ready for what could be a very bad situation Wednesday, Thursday."

On whether the Government will seek EU funding to deal with the flooding aftermath, Mr Stewart also said: "That's again something we're open-minded on but to be honest about that it can be seven or eight months to process, it's not going to be able to help people who are immediately affected.

"So our real priority at the moment is to get the money to the people who are affected and making sure businesses and householders get the support now."

Labour's Mr McDonnell also warned cuts to overseas aid would be a "short-term saving, but a long-term cost".

He earlier told the same programme: "If you look at a lot of the money we're spending overseas it is to tackle climate change. We're tackling the issue at source. So, for example, we're reducing dependency on fossil fuels."

09:38

Police warn of 'looting' in wake of floods

West Yorkshire Police sent out this warning late last night suggesting property left outside to dry in the Calderdale Valleys has been stolen.

Good evening. As the cleanup of Mytholmroyd, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge continues, we are being made aware of persons…

Posted by
West Yorkshire Police – Calderdale Valleys on
Monday, 28 December 2015

There are dozens of responses on Facebook.

Among them, Ana Maria Chiru says: "Bad times when people take advantage of others' misery for profit."

Karen Davies-Ward says: "People been seen/caught by residents in vans at Park Road Elland trying to loot things too. Absolutely disgusts me!"

And Linda Johnson says: "Good to see looking after the poor people who av lost everthing.shame on those taking advantage."

Sam Point says: "We have the same thing happen here, we've had to close off areas to residents only (drivers license ID access) and bonafide supprt personnel in areas as well.

"Don't be too fast blaming travellers either, we had organised groups of grubs travelling hundreds of kilometers to thieve 'flood damaged' items and enter housing.

"Last one through Rockhampton enterprising thieves drove around in a rented truck and trailer stealing the generators that had been put in to power the traffic lights!

"I have seen a lot with 30 years of disaster response and management including 15 years with the state police as a radio tech."

09:25

York this morning

Workers from a taxi firm leave a neighbouring wine bar with a teapot and three cups of tea, through the floodwaters from the rivers Foss and Ouse, after they burst their banks in York, northern EnglandWorkers from a taxi firm leave a neighbouring wine bar with a teapot and three cups of tea, through the floodwaters from the rivers Foss and Ouse, after they burst their banks in York, northern England Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

United Kingdom. Severe flooding has affected large parts of northern England, with homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire evacuated as rivers burst their banks. More heavy rain is forecast as dozens of severe flood warnings remain in place.Rescue teams evacuate residents in the Huntington Road area of York after the River Foss burst its banks Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

09:02

Wales braced for Storm Frank

So far North Wales has been worst hit by the this month's flooding with homes being evacuated and chaos on the roads.

But from today the damage could spread far wider.

One flood warning is in place in Denbighshire and several flood alerts have been issued across Wales.

The weather warning from the Met Office also includes wind with gusts of up to 60mph expected.

Over the weekend the A55 dual carriageway in north Wales was shut for hours due to flooding.

Drivers were forced to abandon cars while homes on Anglesey and Gwynedd were evacuated.

The Welsh government said flood risk management was a key priority.

08:37

More resources sent north

Firefighters from Hertfordshire travelling to north to help tackle the flood crisis:

Our ELS team crewed with FF's and Control staff is enroute to assist with operations in #Cumbria #StormFrank #Floods pic.twitter.com/vqQ9dKqH81

— Herts Fire Control (@HertsFRSControl)
December 29, 2015

08:25

EA boss 'sunning himself in Barbados'

The Environment Agency chairman is waking up to some bad headlines this morning.

He has come under fire after being accused of sunning himself in Barbados as communities are hit by floods.

It is reported Sir Philip Dilley went on holiday with his family rather than seeing the devastation in Yorkshire and Lancashire for himself.

However, an Environment Agency spokesman insisted he was in "regular touch" on the flooding issues and available to participate in discussions, despite the four-hour time difference.

Read more in Gordon Rayner's piece here.

08:17

Flooding 'beyond party politics'

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has told the BBC's Today programme that the issue of flooding should be beyond party politics.

He said any review must include the input of experts "who really get down on the ground, talking to council leaders and local communities".

He added: "We come up with a long-term plan that goes beyond the life of one parliament, we all sign up to it and we don't get into this situation where it's stop-start again."

07:49

'We are spending an enormous amount of money'

The debate over whether the north was adaquately prepared for this month's deluge is continuing this morning.

Following David Cameron's denial that there was a North-South divide when it comes to flood defences, floods minister Rory Stewart has appeared on TV this morning.

He defended the cuts made in the previous coalition government to flood defences saying that £1.8 billion had been spent in the last parliament.

Mr Stewart told Good Morning Britain: "Underlying the central problem I'm afraid is the weather. We have never had rain like this before.

"We have been dealing with this for nearly three-and-a-half weeks now. We started with more rain than had ever been seen in a day in the United Kingdom. We have had more rain than has ever happened in this month.

"Rivers here which haven't flooded in this way for 75 years are 15 feet up. I'm afraid that is the fundamental problem here.

"We are spending an enormous amount of money on flood defences. In the end what is beating us is this relentless rain."

07:41

The calm before the storm

Here's the latest from the Met Office:

The quiet before the #StormFrank. A few early showers, but most will be dry today. Here's how it looks… Matt pic.twitter.com/iK8tlBkrk0

— BBC Weather (@bbcweather)
December 29, 2015

Last night, forecasters said Storm Frank – the sixth of the season – would arrive by this evening.

It has issued amber warnings with up to 40mm of persistent rain expected widely across Northern Ireland, west and south-west Scotland, Wales and north-west England – flooded by Storm Desmond – by tomorrow.

Twice that is possible – 80mm – over high ground, with some exposed areas in south-west Scotland and Cumbria warned they could be hit by 100-150mm.

It said the conditions were "not unusual for this time of year" and comparable with the storms of the winter of 2013-14.

Met Office chief meteorologist Will Lang said: "Everyone should be aware of the potential for disruption in places from further flooding and the impacts of the gales to transport."

07:30

Another day, another storm

Yet more misery is set to be heaped on flood-hit communities today as Storm Frank moves in to batter western parts of the UK.

The storm, which follows in the wake of Storm Eva and Storm Desmond, will hit from Tuesday evening into Wednesday.

As the chart below shows, Cumbria and southern and central Scotland are most at risk of more disruption.

Interactive:
2912 Weather forecast

Up to 150mm of rainfall is predicted to hit some exposed areas of Cumbria and south-west Scotland, while up to 40mm is expected over Northern Ireland and west Scotland.

Interactive:
Flood map – Rain set to worsen again on Wednesday

It comes after David Cameron was forced to defend the funding available for defences as he met people in York yesterday taking advantage of a brief respite from the weather to start cleaning up.

The service company KPMG, which is working with organisations across the north as they respond to the flooding, said there was an initial estimate of the cost of the month's events at up to £5.8 billion.

However, it also warned many homes and businesses are uninsured.

The Prime Minister was heckled as he met victims as well as those involved in the emergency response and insisted cash for defences was increasing.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron greets soldiers working on flood relief in York city centre after the river Ouse burst its banksBritain's Prime Minister David Cameron greets soldiers working on flood relief in York city centre after the river Ouse burst its banks Photo: REUTERS/Darren Staples

He dismissed a complaint from the council leader in flood-hit Leeds the North was being neglected, claiming it got more per head than the South.

But he conceded the regularity with which homes were now being flooded made a review of what was being spent where a vital exercise.

The Government has ordered a major review of flood prevention strategy after the latest incident saw 500 troops deployed to help clean up after thousands were evacuated and many left without power.

Here, we will follow all today's developments.

07:00

Live storm tracker

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Live storm trackerRead more