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UPDATE PICTURES & VIDEO: David Cameron praises island's fight against flooding
6:10am Tuesday 11th February 2014 in News
Prime Minister David Cameron visits Chesil Beach at Chiswell, Portland, at Cove House Inn, owners Mandy, left and Jackie,
PRIME Minister David Cameron has praised the efforts of an operation to restore Portland flood defences.
Mr Cameron flew in by helicopter to witness the work being done to shore up the defences before the next big storm.
See a video of Mr Cameron's visit here
Read more about the visit below:
Chiswell has been battered by storms and giant waves and Royal Engineers were drafted in at the weekend to support the Environment Agency’s efforts.
Mr Cameron, who was accompanied on his visit by South Dorset MP Richard Drax, praised the efforts of the military, which he said has made a ‘huge difference’.
But he stopped short of pledging funds to help stricken residents and businesses.
Mr Cameron said: “If it’s necessary to spend money in Portland and Dorset then it will be spent.”
He added: “This flood defence scheme worked and it protected homes and properties. While these storms were as bad as in past years, for example 1979, the damage was far less because of the effective flood defence.”
Referring to criticisms of the Government’s response to the recent floods, Mr Cameron said: “I am not interested in anything other than getting on and making sure people get the help they need.
“The Environment Agency and the army are doing a great job, as I have seen here in Dorset and the whole Government is totally focused on what we can do to help, whether that’s pumping water or helping with Local Government funding.”
More money has already been promised from Defra’s contingency fund to help flood-stricken communities, including £10million which will be spent on specific flood measures for the Somerset Levels.
Mr Cameron said the flood defence budget has also been increased.
Mr Drax said he was ‘delighted’ the Prime Minister had visited.
He added: “The sea defences have helped. One or two homes were flooded but that was due to water coming over instead of through.
“That was very frightening of course, but the Portlanders are a tough bunch who won’t let a few waves frighten them.”
Royal Engineers help shifting pebbles
COLONEL Chris McGregor, commanding officer of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry said more than 40 Royal Engineers are working to support the Environment Agency.
It is the first time the army have been drafted in to help with a flooding crisis on Portland.
Col McGregor said: “We are just happy to be here to help residents.”
Coastal engineer with the Environment Agency Neil Watson said 100,000 cubic metres – up to 30 per cent – of pebbles from Chesil Beach have been displaced through the storms.
Government announcements on funding are ‘welcome’, he added, but maintenance is more crucial in keeping the defences effective.
He added: “We have had staff working around the clock since January 31, both in the incident rooms and on site and they have been working tirelessly to protect people’s lives.”
Storm talk at the Cove Inn
CAMPAIGNERS and councillors were invited to a private meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the island’s flood defences.
David Cameron visited the Cove House Inn after Chesil Beach was battered by storms and gigantic waves, flooding parts of Chiswell.
Pub owners Jackie Breakspear and Mandy Broughton-South welcomed the Prime Minister inside after he visited Chesil Beach to witness the efforts going on to protect the coast from storm damage.
Mr Cameron spoke privately regarding flood defences on the island with environmental campaigner and Portland resident Storm Wallace, Mayor of Portland Les Ames, South Dorset MP Richard Drax, Head of Dorset Highways Operations at Dorset County Council Andrew Martin, joint owners of the Cove House Inn Jackie and Mandy and representatives from Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.
Jackie Breakspear said Mr Cameron asked the question of whether the government were doing enough to support the community here on Portland.
She said: “We discussed flood defences on the island; I said in the circumstances I think the community here are doing really well and trying to put things right as soon as possible.
“Nothing was going to stop the severe weather no matter what defences the island had in place.
“One problem that we put to Mr Cameron was that residents here would like a warning siren ten or twenty minutes before the evacuation siren actually sounds, so that we have more time to react.”
Storm Wallace also told the Prime Minister that more sandbags are needed during extreme weather and asked for more help from the local authority.
She said: “He thanked me for my hard work and I told him that the whole community has come together.
“He’s a nice guy to talk to but we will have to wait and see if anything we’ve suggested has been put in place.”
Sandra West, Borough councillor for Underhill, blasted the government's actions during the severe weather and flooding that hit Portland.
She added: “We are people not a game and we needed help from the government last week.
“I just think if the government were that concerned why where they not here when we really needed help?”
LITTLE Georgia Botting made friends with a surprise visitor after popping in the Cove House Inn to see her grandmother. The youngster, aged just seven months, posed in a picture with the Prime Minister. Mother of Georgia and Jackie’s daughter, Sarah Breakspear, 32, said: “It's not every day you get a chance to meet David Cameron.
“Jackie said someone special was coming so we headed down here in the hope to get a picture with whoever it was.
“The Prime Minister said what beautiful blue eyes Georgia had and how holding her made him broody.
“He also joked that he would go home to Mrs Cameron and ask if they could have another baby.
“Georgia had no idea who she had just met but the story will definitely be one to remember. It was great to see that Mr Cameron came round to visit.”
Warning as more grim weather is on the way
MORE severe weather is on the way with amber warnings for winds up to 70mph issued for Dorset this week.
After a couple of days of respite the Met Office has warned that more storms are expected, with the worst of the weather being seen tomorrow and Thursday.
A yellow warning for rain was issued for today, tomorrow and Thursday, with strong winds forecast from 12pm on Wednesday until 6am on Thursday.
A Met Office spokesperson said: “A vigorous area of low pressure is expected to move north-eastwards across the UK later on Wednesday, clearing eastwards early on Thursday.
“This is likely to be accompanied by a swathe of gales across many parts of England and Wales, which may be severe in places.
“The public should be prepared for the risk of disruption to transport and possibly also power supplies.”
They added: “A further spell of widespread rain, heavy in places, is likely to spread north-eastwards across much of the UK on Wednesday clearing eastwards early on Thursday.
“Following earlier heavy rainfall, the public should be aware of the potential for further flooding in places.
“Gale or severe gale force winds are likely to be an added hazard in places.”
Flooded-out mum backing PM’s isle visit
A PORTLAND woman whose home was flooded welcomed Mr Cameron’s visit.
Sue Beacock, 50, left her home in Victoria Square after the water level rose as high as three feet in her back garden.
Water seeped through to her kitchen and front room, damaging furniture, ruining carpets and overflowing the drainage system at the front of her house.
She said: “I was just pleased the Prime Minister was showing an interest really. It's good to be taken notice of. Hopefully he can get the troops to shore the beach back up again.”
Ms Beacock is facing a hefty clean-up bill after she revealed to the Echo that she didn’t have home insurance.
She said: “It was the last thing to do on my to do list. I didn’t really think about it.
“We have had these warnings quite a lot but even yesterday I thought we got away with it. But then there was the last wave that was three quarters of an hour to an hour after high tide.”
The wave Ms Beacock refers to is visible in a video that can be seen online at dorsetecho.co.uk.
She added: “I’m so glad somebody filmed it because I’m sure no-one would believe me.
“I went out in the street to see if everything was all right. I didn’t think we were in danger.”
Ms Beacock has lived on Portland for the past 11 years. She lives with her son Toby, 25, and her two dogs, Molly and Ben.
After being diagnosed with tonsil cancer at the beginning of 2012, Ms Beacock underwent radiation treatment and entered remission in November last year. She was looking at 2014 as an opportunity to move on.
Despite the damage caused to the house, Ms Beacock remained optimistic.
She said: “When you think of the people on the Somerset plains, it is not that bad. We’re alive.”
Further heavy rain and high winds are expected to hit Dorset this week. The Met Office has issued an amber rain warning until Saturday with residents told to expect further flooding.
Officers from the Environment Agency have visited Ms Beacock’s house and advised her to stay elsewhere for the next few days.
Portland stone quarry firm Albion Stone has provided Ms Beacock with sandbags to help reduce the impact of flooding.
Ms Beacock said: “They’re expecting it to happen again.
“It’s not so bad during the day but if that was to happen at night, it would be very scary.”
See more pictures of the visit below: