UK floods: David Cameron defends flood investment

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Media captionDavid Cameron on flood defences: ''Here in Yorkshire... we are planning to spend another £280m''

David Cameron has defended the government's spending on flood defences following widespread devastation across parts of northern England.

The prime minister dismissed suggestions of a "north-south divide" in investment, saying more per head was spent on flood defences in the north.

Parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester were flooded after several rivers burst their banks.

The Environment Agency has called for a "complete rethink" of flood defences.

The Met Office says areas of Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire have seen record December levels of rainfall.

'Real anger'

A thousand homes have flooded in Leeds, but the leader of the city council, Judith Blake, said the flooding had been a "preventable disaster".

She said the North had not received "anywhere near the support that we saw going into Somerset" - which flooded in 2014 - and there was now a "real anger growing across the North".

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Media captionThe BBC's Judith Moritz: "An RAF Chinook was flown in to bring machinery to help repair a flood barrier"

But speaking while visiting communities affected in York, Mr Cameron rejected the accusation.

He said ministers needed to assess "what we are planning to build, what we are planning to spend and see if more can be done".

The government has ordered a major review of flood prevention strategy.

But the prime minister insisted the government had spent "more per head of the population on flood defences in the north than we do in the south".

"We are going to spend £2.3bn on flood defences in this parliament but we will look at what's happened here and see what needs to be done," he added.

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The Environment Agency has nine severe flood warnings - meaning danger to life - in place in north-east and north-west England, and more than 100 other flood alerts across England and Wales.

It comes as a fresh storm - which has officially been named Storm Frank - is set to bring further heavy rain late on Tuesday into Wednesday.

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Image caption Cars in York were overwhelmed by the scale of the flooding in some areas
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Media captionStorm Frank: The latest weather forecast

Many places in northern England have seen record river levels over the past 24 hours, including the River Aire in Leeds, and the rivers Calder and Ribble, affecting places such as Whalley, Hebden Bridge and Ribchester.

The River Ouse is now thought to have stabilised in York, where hundreds of people had to leave flooded homes following the torrential rain over Christmas, but water levels are still believed to be rising in the town of Selby.

In developments elsewhere:

  • The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) says Storm Frank could bring further flooding to Scotland
  • Wales is also bracing itself for more rain
  • Analysts estimate the cost of flooding across northern England could exceed £1.5bn
  • People affected in Yorkshire and Lancashire will have access to the support package announced earlier in the month for those hit by Storm Desmond in Cumbria.
  • The Department for Transport is also to provide £40m to help repair and rebuild flood-damaged roads and bridges
  • Electricity North West says about 350 properties remain without power in Greater Manchester and Lancashire
  • The Archbishop of York has praised the "tremendous spirit" of people responding to the floods
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Image caption Meanwhile, some residents in York were forced to use a canoe to paddle from their homes
Image copyright Jeff J Mitchell
Image caption Others were given piggybacks by rescue crews as a quick method of getting them to dry land
Image caption Aerial photographs showed the scale of the flooding in York

The Environment Agency deputy chief executive David Rooke said the UK was moving from a period of "known extremes" of weather to one of "unknown extremes".

"I think we will need to have that complete rethink and I think we will need to move from not just providing better defences... but also looking at increasing resilience," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Meanwhile, the Met Office has issued yellow (be aware) warnings for rain on Wednesday in areas of northern England, Wales and Northern Ireland, bringing the threat of further flooding.

Amber (be prepared) warnings for rain are also in place for parts of Scotland on Wednesday. There are currently no flood warnings in Scotland.

People can access information from council websites and the Environment Agency Floodline.

The agency is also operating a phone line - 0345 988 1188 - which will be staffed rather than offering recorded information.

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