Body found as Cameron sees where new flood defences failed

A BODY has been found by police searching for an elderly man believed to have fallen into the River Kent in flood-hit Cumbria.

People watch waves close to the harbour wall at Porthcawl, South Wales, on Saturday. Ben Birchall/PA Wire
People watch waves close to the harbour wall at Porthcawl, South Wales, on Saturday. Ben Birchall/PA Wire

An underwater search team is working to recover the body which was discovered in the Kendal area, Cumbria Police said.

Officers were called to reports that the man had fallen into the swollen river shortly after 10am on Sunday.

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David Cameron will visit areas hit by the devastating floods amid mounting criticism of multimillion-pound defences which failed to keep the deluge of water out of people’s homes.

The areas most affected

The Prime Minister said he would travel to “badly-hit” places after chairing a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency response committee, as northern England and Scotland brace themselves for more heavy rain.

After Cumbria, the county worst affected by Storm Desmond, declared a major incident over the weekend, the Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for rain across north west England and western Scotland this week.

More than 45 severe flood warnings are in place, meaning there is a danger to life, across the North West, along with dozens of less serious flood warnings and flood alerts over northern England and Wales.

In Carlisle, the Army was sent to help support emergency services evacuating people from their homes in streets where cars were almost entirely submerged.

Emergency workers use a boat in floodwater on Warwick Road in Carlisle. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Cumbria County Council leader Stewart Young has called for an investigation into the county’s flood defences after £45 million was invested since catastrophic floods in 2005.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I will be talking to our local MPs later today and if the Environment Agency needs to revisit them then that’s what’s going to have to happen, because we can’t continue to have events like this in Cumbria, we just won’t be able to cope.”

Floods minister Rory Stewart said the defences had slowed down the water to allow more time for evacuations.

He told the BBC: “When you face, as we have now, probably the highest rainfall we have ever had in the United Kingdom, it is going to come over the top of defences.

“But what the defences do do is they slow it down, it gives us more time, it’s given people here more time to evacuate safely, and it’s meant that there’s less water on the streets than there would have been if we hadn’t had that defence in place.”

Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan said the EA would have to review what happened in Cumbria to “learn the lessons for the future”.

Electricity North West said 2,657 properties in Cumbria were without power on Monday morning because of 11 separate faults caused by flooding, with water preventing engineers from getting to the sites to carry out repairs.

Around 40 schools remained closed, while the disruption led to the cancellation of appointments and routine business across NHS hospitals and services.

Cumbria rain gauge figures showed a record amount fell in the 24 hours between Friday and Saturday evenings, with 13.4in (341mm) registered in Honister - more than a month’s worth of rain in just one day.

More than 2,000 homes and businesses in the county were flooded and almost 60,000 homes in the county were left without power throughout Sunday as the floods damaged substations and caused electrical faults.

In the Lancaster and Morecambe area, where the main substation was flooded on Saturday night, engineers working “around the clock” restored power to 45,000 homes and were continuing efforts to return power to the remaining 10,000 over the course of Monday morning.

Power has been restored to all homes in north Wales after heavy rain and wind left 700 without power on Saturday. And in Northern Ireland, major clean-up operations were under way in parts of Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh after weekend flooding damaged homes and businesses.

Superintendent Mark Pannone, of Cumbria Constabulary, said the flooding had been “on an unprecedented scale”, affecting the whole county.

“A lot of the county are trying to get back to normality but we still have the ongoing incident in Carlisle where we have about 2,500 properties in Carlisle flooded,” he said.

The rail network in Cumbria remained “basically at a standstill”, he added.

An appeal by Cumbria Community Foundation to raise £1 million to support vulnerable individuals and families who have been badly affected by the floods is under way and has already raised more than £260,000.

The discovery of a body in the River Kent comes after the death of a 90-year-old man who was believed to have been blown into the side of a moving bus by strong winds near Finchley Central Tube station in London.