The case of Phil and Lana Smithen, captured by Channel 4 news, is typical of what is happening to families in the flood-affected regions of south and south-west Britain. The couple, who have lived in the village of Moorland in Somerset for 39 years, resisted leaving their home by piling sandbags at the entrance to their home on Thursday. On Friday morning, after their village and house was flooded, they too gave up and left for safer ground.
Theirs were just one of 80 homes from which people were evacuated in Moorland by the Royal Marines who are now in the area to help with evacuation and rescue efforts, with flood defences washed away in the Somerset Levels.
Already battered by storms and high velocity winds over the past several weeks, the people of this region are now bracing themselves for a weekend of gales and heavy rain as a new Atlantic storm is predicted to make landfall here on Friday night. Ruth, the latest in what weather forecasters have described as a “conveyor belt of Atlantic storms” will bring more bad weather -- and winds up to 80 kms an hour in parts of the country, with high waves predicted on coastlines.
The images and reportage from the predominantly rural region show the initial resilience of local families, like the Smithens, giving way to despair and helplessness as continuing rain and floods take an even greater toll on infrastructure like roads and bridges, and as their homes, fields and barns yield to the rising waters.
Railway services have been disrupted. Two days ago crashing waves along the picturesque coast of Devon brought down a railway line, leaving it hanging inbizarre balancein mid-air.
Met Office forecasts that the weekend storm will bring a six-hour spell of heavy rain to the south and south west. The UK’s Environmental Agency on Thursday issued two severe flood warning, 54 flood warnings and 217 flood alerts across England and Wales. Residents of the villages of Frodgate, North Moor, Salt Moor and Moorland have been advised to move out of their homes. A centre for displaced person has been started in the nearby town of Bridgwater.
An Environment Agency spokesperson, according to media reports, said: “Severe weather along the coast is also set to return on Saturday, with large waves and strong winds threatening to cause flooding along the Devon and Dorset coasts where some communities and defences are vulnerable after this week’s storms.
“We’re preparing for yet more heavy rain… which is falling on already saturated ground following the wettest January on record.”
On Friday, Duncan Smith, head of the Environment Agency, will make his first visit to the area. He has been under severe criticism for what the public perceive is poor flood planning by his agency. His comment that the country must, in its priorities in planning for the future, decide between town and country.