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View looking over Aller towards the Curry Rivel monument.Photo by Ian Downes

View looking over Aller towards the Curry Rivel monument.Photo by Ian Downes

Flooding is obviously not a new phenomenon here, as was so helpfully pointed out by a recent Troll.  In 1607 the Bristol Channel flooded, and we get flooding at some scale every year.  The difference this year is the scale of the flooding and the amount of time it has continued for with no sign of any let up in the very near future.  As I write the rain is continuing to fall outside my (thankfully above the flood plain) house.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine started a page on Facebook called Somerset Floods and after a couple of weeks she asked me to join her as admin to help with the increased amount of traffic on the page. Our page is essentially one that aims to provide information to people: traffic updates, police updates, local road closures that aren’t reported in the press,  flood warnings, links and phone numbers to places they can go to for practical help.  It has been amazing to see the level of support there for the people of Somerset, not just from locals but across the country.

Over the last 6 weeks 25 square miles of the levels have been under water, villages have been cut off, homes evacuated and livelihoods destroyed.  So many septic tanks have now leaked that bacterial levels in the stagnant waters are around 60 times higher than that considered safe.  (Read More)The area of flooding is extending all the time because the water simply has nowhere to go.  Journeys to work have become treacherous at times even for those like me who are fortunate enough to live away from the levels where they are facing the brunt of this emergency.  The road to work has become a causeway – it is now essentially a long strip of tarmac separating 2 huge lakes where once there were fields, and if the rain comes down (which it always does) it is liable to flood at any moment. I have actually seen water pouring out of the fields across the road so fast it created waves in the static water further down.  And rail links to Cornwall are now essentially cut off.    It is in effect a national disaster, and we have only just now started to see high level politicians in the area and some practical help coming our way.  Something that has understandably  caused a great deal of anger and resentment towards the Government.

We all have our own opinions as to the cause of the flooding, what could and should have been done to prevent it and so on, and as far as I am concerned politicians are fair game . Of course we can’t blame the Government for the rain – but we do blame them for the lack of any flood prevention methods, or the increasing levels of bureaucracy that now prevents farmers from just removing the silt themselves as they did for generations and dumping it on the adjacent fields.
I don’t believe that the page is either the time or the place for electioneering or trying to drum up support for campaigns to reduce funding to other people around the world who similarly find themselves in awful situations and in countries that are far less able to deal with it than we are. The failure to help those affected on the Somerset levels is not related to overseas funding, it is a direct result of Government’s failure to act sooner, particularly with flood prevention measures, and sitting on their haunches until things have basically reached critical mass.  We didn’t see anyone from the Government until things had been going on for a month and then finally Owen Paterson the Environment Secretary put in an appearance.  Chris Smith who heads up the Environment Agency finally arrived up at the end of this week.  Even Prince Charles pitched up before he did!

The response on our page has really restored my faith in humanity and the sense of community that still exists on a local and national level.  Of course we do have a (very) few people who seem to want to use the flooding for some political or financial gain, most of those visiting the page are pretty amazing folk who are offering help, space in their own  homes, hotel services for pets, removal of household belongings for fuel cost only, food, and a large number of volunteers out there in the field doing what they can to provide some real, practical help and support.  Other pages have been set up notably FLAG to help not only with the current situation, but the inevitable aftermath when the Government removes the army and waltzes off thinking they can just leave the people of Somerset  to pick up the pieces, deal with huge insurance premiums, and cover the cost of the enormous amounts of destruction of people’s homes, livestock and the land itself.
And finally a little about the phrase “Charity begins at home”

What has saddened me has been the small minority of people who post on this theme, mainly it has to be said, aimed at promoting one specific political party. Charity Begins at home is essentially stating that one should care for the needs of one’s own family before concerning oneself with the problems of others and is apparently based mainly on the sentence in 1 Timothy 5:8, King James Bible, 1611:

But if any prouide not for his owne, & specially for those of his owne house, hee hath denied the faith, and is worse then an infidel.

However, whilst looking after and caring for your own family is a reasonable, essential and laudable thing, it most certainly does not imply that charity should end at home. Surely that would go against the basic tenet of the Christian religion (from which this quote originates) which also states that one should “love thy neighbour as thyself”?  Something that does not seem to be part of the vocabulary of these people or the political party they seem to almost universally represent.
– To offer practical support and donations of goods – call Red Cross on 01823 273700. They will log your details and call you back when it is needed.

– To offer financial support – visit Somerset Emergency Flood Relief Fund Appeal http://goo.gl/msvCbw
PLEASE NOTE: Dp watch out for scammers ‘setting up flood appeals’. For safety tips check out Scam Watch http://goo.gl/r7F1K