BORIS Johnson’s belated visit to the flood-stricken areas of the Don Valley yesterday was welcome, even if he struggled to convince sceptical residents that the Government had not been guilty of doing too little, too late to help them during this ‘national emergency’.
There is no doubt that the Prime Minister’s shock at what he witnessed and the sympathy he expressed were genuine. Having seen for himself the scale of the devastation, and the misery it is causing to so many people, Mr Johnson must surely do everything in his power to help the area recover.
He should reflect on what he saw and heard, and this must inform policy-making for areas like South Yorkshire that are at risk of flooding. Although the immediate priority is to get communities back on their feet, the Government needs to start planning for long-term defence work to stop such a catastrophe happening again.
The arrival of troops to help the relief effort will have raised morale. Their presence helps residents feel they are not alone in trying to cope, and however belatedly, they have the full weight of the state behind them.
Equally reassuring was the Prime Minister’s pledge to look at honouring insurance policies that do not cover flood damage. The Government should act without delay. It is unthinkable that people should face financial ruin from environmental events beyond their control.
Many challenges lie ahead. Further heavy rain is forecast, possibly resulting in more flooding, and the people of South Yorkshire should follow the advice of the emergency services. However painful it is to abandon homes, if that is necessary to safeguard lives then it will have to happen.
This crisis is not going to be over quickly. Recovering from it will take even longer. The Government is committed to helping. If it falls short in any way, we will hold it to account.