Messenger NewspapersCouncil issues new alert on floods (From Messenger Newspapers)

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Council issues new alert on floods

Messenger Newspapers: Flood water on the Somerset Levels Flood water on the Somerset Levels

A local authority has declared a "major incident" on the Somerset Levels after weeks of flooding and predictions of further heavy rainfall.

Sedgemoor District Council said it was taking action because of the weather forecast for the next couple of days.

Many communities are still coming to terms with the flooding that hit Somerset at the beginning of January and now face further problems.

Most of the Somerset Levels remain under water, while villagers in Muchelney have been cut off for three weeks.

Residents in the village, which means "Big Island" in Saxon, have been reliant on volunteers in boats bringing in supplies.

Muchelney, which lies between Taunton and Yeovil, was devastated last year by the worst floods in 90 years.

A vital boat service operated by Somerset County Council, which is ferrying people to work and school, as well as shipping in supplies, is continuing as the access roads are still flooded.

The Environment Agency does not have any severe flood warnings - meaning a risk to life - in force in Somerset but there are several flood warnings in place.

The Met Office has issued an amber warning of rain for Somerset with 10mm to 20mm forecast.

"With water levels already exceptionally high on the Somerset Levels, the public should be prepared for further flooding," a Met Office spokesman said.

Kerry Rickards, chief executive of Sedgemoor District Council, said: "Several Sedgemoor communities have been severely affected by the floodwaters for some weeks now.

"With significant rainfall expected over the coming days we feel this situation needs to be escalated as a major incident.

"Sedgemoor District Council would like to extend its continued sympathy for the residents, business owners and farmers affected by flooding."

The council said it would continue to provide practical support to residents whose properties are flooded or are predicted to flood.

This ranges from the supply of portable toilets where septic tanks are overwhelmed to sandbag collection points in villages and deliveries to the most vulnerable properties.

The council said it had provided around 3,000 sandbags in the past few weeks and is also offering housing advice and is on standby to provide temporary accommodation.

Somerset County Council is campaigning for the dredging of rivers on the Levels and has recently pledged a further £500,000 towards the cost - a move backed by Sedgemoor District Council.

Somerset County Council backed Sedgemoor council's decision to call a major incident for Somerset.

With more bad weather expected this weekend and high tides next week, there is the potential for more communities to be affected by flooding, the council said.

Deputy council leader David Hall said: "We're supporting Sedgemoor District Council's decision to call the flooding in Somerset a major incident.

"The Met Office is forecasting more rain this weekend leading to an increase in flood water levels across the county. We also expect further high tides next week that will make the situation worse.

"We will continue to support residents affected by floods. We have recently extended our boat service for stranded residents in Muchelney and Thorney, we are helping communities strengthen their flood defences and will continue to ensure vulnerable people are safe."

Nick Gargan, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, tweeted: "I've just been getting a briefing reassuring me that we're doing all we can to mitigate the impact of flooding in Somerset."

A spokeswoman for Sedgemoor District Council said "major incidents" were the trigger for notifying and mobilising other agencies.

"An organisation may elect to declare a major incident if it is unable to deal with an 'internal' incident as part of normal day-to-day activities," the spokeswoman added.

Somerset County Council has now declared a "major incident" for all areas affected by flooding in the county.

Deputy chief executive Pat Flaherty said: "Our priority has to be to keep people safe. We are doing everything we can to do this and we believe that declaring a major incident shows just how urgent the situation is for many of our residents and communities.

"The reason we are taking this action is the long-term nature of the issues we are facing and to enable a consistent approach to the way that we deal with them."

The county council will continue its help and support for people affected by flooding which includes a boat service for the cut-off community of Muchelney and Thorney, providing a pontoon bridge at Langport, supporting farmers providing a vital tractor service to communities, keeping roads open and evacuating residents when necessary.

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