March 11 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Councils will be reimbursed for the immediate costs of the storm surge, environment secretary Owen Paterson has said.
In a statement to parliament today Mr Paterson said the government would spend the next few days discussing what further help was needed for communities to “quickly get back on their feet”.
He said communities secretary Eric Pickles had set up the Bellwin Scheme to help the local authorities.
The environment secretary also paid tribute to emergency services and the community spirit which saw people rally round to help their neighbours as he said sea defences were put to their greatest test in 60 years.
In the statement he said the country was organised and prepared, adding: “The government is grateful for the excellent response from our front line emergency services. I pay tribute to the community spirit of ordinary people who have rallied round to help their neighbours in difficult times. I want to particularly praise the work of the Environment Agency, Met Office and Flood Forecasting Centre. There were also many Local Authorities which worked tirelessly to prepare for and respond to the surge as it happened.”
Mr Paterson, who chaired three meetings of the emergency committee COBR last week, said the government was able to plan and coordinate the response to ensure the focus was on protecting communities at risk and the key infrastructure that supports them.
More than 160,000 homes and businesses received a flood warning and advice ahead of the surges, and about 18,000 properties were evacuated last Thursday in coastal towns across the country.
Mr Paterson said: “The extreme conditions of last week put sea defences to their greatest test in 60 years. Record tidal surge levels were experienced at many locations, including at North Shields, Whitby, Hull, Immingham and Dover. In Wales, Rhyl was badly hit with 250 properties affected. Some parts of the East Coast experience such circumstances only once every 500 years.”