THE INTELLIGENCE agency MI5 last week came into conflict with flood risk experts as it called on the Government to keep secret maps of areas liable to serious flooding if any of the country’s dams were to break, because, they claim, terrorists might use the maps to work out which dams to attack to have maximum impact.
Specialists in the Cabinet Office and the Environment Agency are calling for more information to be made public as the risk of major flooding increases with climate change. catastrophic
Recently previously secret information revealed that record rainfall at the Ulley reservoir near Rotherham in Yorkshire nearly led to failure of the dam, which would have had catastrophic consequences.
MI5’s own London headquarters are on the north Thames embankment close to Lambeth Bridge. Any damage to the Thames Barrier could see their building flooded – along with the Houses of Parliament and most of Whitehall.
Meanwhile the Fire Brigades Union is warning that a year after summer floods caused havoc, the safety of rescue crews remains at risk because Fire and Rescue Services remain under resourced to cope with major flooding. Fire and rescue crews still lack even basic safety equipment such as waterproof clothing, boots and life jackets.
The warning comes from the FBU, whose members were praised for their key role in rescuing over 7,000 people from floods in June and July last year. It is also urging them to adopt Scotland’s lead and introduce a legal duty on fire and rescue authorities to respond to major floods, backed up with extra resources.
The call comes as the FBU publishes a wide-ranging report, Lessons of the 2007 floods – the perspective of fire crews, produced by the Labour Research Department. It draws on the experience, expertise and perceptions of crews involved in last summer’s floods, alongside official reports and Government documents. U-turn
The report charts how Ministers performed a U-turn only three months before last summer’s downpours, when they decided not to include response to major flooding in the Fire and Rescue Services (Emergencies) Order for England.
The lack of a legal duty means fire and rescue authorities in England are still prevented from applying for new funding for the extra equipment, training and personnel needed to deal with the increased risk of flooding climate experts predict.
The Government now faces mounting pressure to make responding to floods a statutory duty as both the FBU and leading fire chiefs say it is needed to prepare for and respond to future flooding. Scotland already has a statutory duty in place.