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Water, Water Everywhere

12th Feb 2014
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It is to be hoped that no readers of this column are currently taking part in their own personal disaster movies but across the country, many of us will now feel threatened by floods and gales.

In any year, the planet will suffer more than its fair share of tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Typically, they take place on your TV screen, broadcast from somewhere on the other side of the world.

This can persuade some of us to make charitable donations but often feel no more real than visions of global disintegration seen in the latest blockbuster disaster movie. Even where thousands of people die, it somehow doesn't feel all that real.

As we are constantly being reminded at present, floods and gales are more than capable of causing their own devastation in Britain from time to time. Once again, this is usually a long way from where we live and involves nobody that we know.

If you live in inner London, the fact that a town in North Yorkshire or the Somerset Levels have become rivers is of no great consequence.

Hearing that the south-west corner of the country is completely cut off following the disappearance of the underpinnings for the rail line begins to make one wonder but probably has no more effect than that.

The moment when this all of this becomes real is when your train journey is delayed or worse.

For many in the south-east, the sight of towns and villages in the commuter belt underwater is chastening and potentially terrifying.

The current situation really does sound like something invented by a Hollywood scriptwriter of the more lurid kind.

The news today featured sandbags in Staines, army patrols to keep out looters in Wraysbury and power cuts to already flooded homes in Datchet.

To compound this, they are tying down everything that moves in Cornwall in the expectation of 100 mph winds.

Once one sees the relatively affluent residents of Datchet and Windsor Park wading in their own living rooms, which is more than they can do since witnessing their fate on screen is not an option because the television is half submerged, this will send shockwaves through many Londoners who is friends, colleagues or clients could be affected.

In fact, some readers of this column might either be fearful or even already facing 6 to 9 months of hell as they are relocated while everything dries out and is replaced. One hopes that insurance policies are all in place and pay out quickly, which should certainly be the case since there can be little dispute about the cause of the damage, as long as it is not an excluded Act of God.

It is also very sad to see one man or woman's nightmare turned into someone else's opportunities to take a partisan pot-shot for political gain.

One might suggest that it is tasteless in the extreme for a national newspaper to suggest that the dying in Africa should lose their financial support from the UK in order to bail out its readership.

A far more helpful and practical suggestion came via a tweet to the BBC website. This suggested that perhaps the money that had been earmarked for HS2 could more usefully being spent to alleviate the rail problems that the railways will face over the next couple of years sorting out the aftermath of the floods?

Similarly, the spat involving a government minister lambasting the Environment Agency on its wounded chief turns the debate into a slanging match by blaming the government is unhelpful.

In reality, one imagines that it is probably the last 10 governments who have all devoted far too little cash to this disaster waiting to happen.

In any event, for most of us this will be forgotten in a few weeks’ time but perhaps we should all make a note in our diaries to spare a thought for those who are still displaced when we go off on our summer holidays.


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Replies (11)

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12th Feb 2014 10:26

Foreign aid ...

You are right about withdrawing aid to the dying in Africa, however that completely ignores the fact that aid needs to be far more selective rather than simply withdrawing it across the board.

It is noticeable that aid to countries with  their own current space programs are ignored by the blog. In fact some of the poorest countries in Africa and Asia fall into the 'space program' category; so these countries themselves are ignoring the plight of their own nationals and re-directing resources away from helping local poverty

i.e. Nigeria (first astronauts within two years), India (already has 60 satellites in space - July 2013, launched the first part of a £154 million domestic satellite navigation network to rival the GPS system), Ethiopia (plans to launch its own satellite), Pakistan (launched its first satellite, Paksat-1R in 2011) and last but not least China (Dec 2013 - China successfully landed a space probe on the moon)

Why not remove these countries from the hand-out list and continue with the others?

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By Old Greying Accountant
12th Feb 2014 11:54

I agree ...

... the government should not decide for us to spend our money on countries where they could help themselves but choose not to. If people wish to do so they are free to contribute to charities that will help those countries.</p><p>Helping impoverished countires who cannot help themselves is a spearate matter and to me we have a mpral obligation to help, but other than disaster relief government aid should be spent in a targeted well controlled manner with the aim of freeing them from dependance - as we know from this country a benefits culture in counter-productive in the long term. That said, you cannot look at aid to China and India in isolation, as contracts with those countries come back the other way which may stop if aid is cut - as ever you have to look at al the pieces as often the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts - we all know of HMRC bankrupting a company to claw in £10k of tax which results in £50k of benefits for the now unemployed staff!

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By Peter Bonetti
12th Feb 2014 12:09

Money is no object

I found myself wondering whether this would have been the better mantra some years ago.

That £1 of cost must equal £8 of benefit calculation (relating to flood defence cost) I find really rather disturbing.


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12th Feb 2014 13:26

What trains!


''The moment when this all of this becomes real is when your train journey is delayed or worse. ''''''


We have no trains running down here!

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By ShirleyM
12th Feb 2014 16:16

Don't worry!

David Cameron says .... 'Money no object'!

So we can afford whatever is needed, for whoever needs it, can't we?

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By justsotax
12th Feb 2014 16:18

he hasn't

 got a few buddies who live in that area by any chance (and several thousand con voters)??!?

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By slipknot08
13th Feb 2014 07:08

waterlogged in Dorset

speaking as one of the lucky ones (we've had several days trapped and unable to get out, and no 'undisrupted' train journeys yet this year, but - thank all the gods - no water in the house yet) it has been galling to see everyone leap into action because now people in Berkshire are suffering, so now it's important.

There is a village near us where some homes haven't had power since before Christmas, Somerset is much worse: farmers locally and in Somerset have not only lost standing crops and animal feed crops, but are having to pay to feed (and evacuate) those animals, the tourist industry in the west and south west has been devasted (all those seaside towns with no beach/promenade/saturated - or destroyed - houses etc). Not to mention being cut off by rail.

This is a disaster for local economies - I know we aren't photogenic (horribly muddy), related to royalty, or wearing Hunter wellies, but to all the soundbite idiots on tv over the past few days who think "Somerset doesn't matter because it's all farms" or the unpleasant little sh*t who stated in the papers "they're all rich down there, so who cares..." (not only totally incorrect, but betraying a very unpleasant mentality), yes it DOES matter, and I for one say look after suffering people here first.

Do you seriously think any of the countries we 'aid' would hesitate for one second if the positions were reversed? Do you know what thanks we've received for our efforts on behalf of the Syrian people? Direct threats of terror attacks in London.

The Government owes a duty to look after the citizens of this country ahead of others (they are after all spending our money collected from our taxes) - then, if we have surpluses available, yes we definitely should aid those less fortunate. Just don't dismiss the very real plight of the people who are as we speak losing their homes, possessions and even lives right here.

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Replying to 1995117:
By KateR
14th Feb 2014 15:32

Waterlogged in Dorset

Agree with everything you said. And if Cameron can now say 'money no object' in reference to helping flood victims then what was the austerity programme all about. Just what is the truth?

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By Wiganer Elaine
13th Feb 2014 11:12

Strongly Agree with Slipknot08

I would just like to say that I think slipknot08's post is "bang on".

I would also like to know how the OP can get from "I strongly advise you to divert some of the £11 billion a year spent on overseas aid to ease the suffering of British flood victims .........." (the actual wording on the Daily Mail petition) to his statement; 

"One might suggest that it is tasteless in the extreme for a national newspaper to suggest that the dying in Africa should lose their financial support from the UK in order to bail out its readership"


I know journalists tend to exaggerate and sensationalize (ise?) when writing their newspaper columns, but an accountant!!!!


Please, someone, invent a reality check pill !!!!!!!!!!!

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By justsotax
13th Feb 2014 11:35

and i wonder

how much of the £11 billion actually hits the target...given governments other less than efficient use of money one wonders how much actually aids countries...and how much just makes the leaders of those countries richer....cynical...yup in the extreme! 

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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
14th Feb 2014 13:49

It is sad

Personally I am for Foreign Aid. I think the same amount of money should go to Foreign Aid but with a lot stricter rules so a least it goes further.    Over the years I have raised about £1500 for flood victims and I would be happy to fund raise for the people in Summerset who have been begging for help.   But yes it does all need to be reviewed Charity is a funny thing just look at Oxfam  and the flash cars and offices ( It makes me despair when people are trying to help their fellow humans out ) to find out it paid for some flash offices and cars. 

What is extremely sad  and sicking is on the same week we have the 3 parties uniting against the Scottish Independence we all better together campaign while they leave the South West Region of the UK Similar population  to Scotland to rot for weeks on end.  Yet the minute it is near London they are tripping over themselves.  That is not to say I don,t care about what whats happening to the Thames as it is devasting for those involved

The 3 numpties travelling to Edinburgh ( extremely bad timing in my view)  should have been working hard to help the South West Region and helping businesses and farms who lives have been soul destroyed.   Why could they not have all banged their heads together and help the people flooded instead of all blaming each other and going out in their wellies.  My 10yr old son and his class could do a better job then that lot.  They are definitely more mature. 

The Better together UK  campaign should be  looking after everyone in our country and should not be working on £1 for £1 .  As many know I am not for Independence but if were all better together then the South West and the North during floods should be looked after equally. 





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