Churches assisting storm hit communities

Published 07 January 2014  |  
John Giles/PA Wire
Waves crash onto the promenade between Fleetwood and Blackpool as high tides and huge waves hit the West Coast of the UK

Rain and gale force winds of up to 70 mph are battering Britain's coastlines, leading to widespread damage and flooding.

Storms began to hit the UK in the days before Christmas, leaving some villages entirely cut off and other communities suffering catastrophic amounts of damage.

In a statement to the Commons, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has said seven people have so far been killed and around 1,700 homes flooded in England.

He also said there is a likelihood of more flooding "for some time to come" in Dorset and Wiltshire in particular.

The storms and generally bad weather are combining to make this winter the worst in twenty years. The Environment Agency has issued 110 flood warnings, three of which are severe, while 196 are currently on flood alert.

Communities up and down the country are struggling to contain the devastation as the relentless storms continue to wreck havoc.

Dorset is one of the counties experiencing some of the worst effects of the storm. A Grade I-listed church in Charminster is under threat from flood water which is backing up behind a listed bridge.

Reverend Janet Smith, vicar of St Mary the Virgin, has reported water rushing into the church and lifting up the floor. It is now around 10 inches deep.

The bridge in question has been labelled as a major cause of flooding for some time but has not been removed due to its Grade II listing. Homes in the area are now also at risk.

Towns and villages across Cornwall are also among some of the worst affected. Perranporth, Penzance and Seaton have experienced colossal damage, while Looe, which is one of the most frequently flooded towns in the UK, is currently suffering from extreme flooding in its high street.

Local churches are responding to the needs of their communities as best they can.

"The churches are doing what you'd expect them to," said David Watson, communications officer for the Diocese of Truro.

"They are providing shelter and food for people who have been flooded and who have damage to their properties, and they've been supporting the rescue services.

"Churches themselves have largely escaped damage, but they are acting as centres of support for local communities in the hardest hit areas.

"They know the locality, they know the people involved, and as a diocese we're supporting them in what they're doing."

Agencies are still advising that people avoid dangerous coastal areas. For the latest updates go to http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/

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