West Yorkshire 'watery hell' floods warning

Could a Queensland-style deluge happen here in West Yorkshire?

Experts from the Environment Agency are not happy to talk in apocalyptic terms.

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But a spokesman was prepared to say: "It isn't something we expect to happen but that doesn't mean it is inconceivable."

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Such a scenario is outside the Agency's control. So all it can do is prepare for the worst that the rain could throw at us.

It draws up plans for coping with an extreme event like a once-in-a-thousand-year flood.

What would that be like? How deep would water be in Leeds streets? That is hard to say.

"But in June 2007 we saw buildings in Leeds city centre threatened with floodwater," said the spokesman, "and that is nothing like a one-in-a-thousand-year event.

The Environment Agency - along with emergencies services, local authorities and other interested parties - will be take part in

Exercise Watermark, a nationwide operation from March 4 to 11, which

will test the nation's ability to cope with flooding.

The exercise is one of the recommendations made by Sir Michael Pitt, who carried out a review following the floods of 2007.

"We need to check how much we have moved on since then," said an EA spokesman. "We need to find out how well major responders can work together.

"In West Yorkshire we will deal with the scenario of flash flooding. It will be a table-top exercise. Work will be done behind the scenes and there won't be people out on the streets.

"Agencies involved will react as if the information they have been given is for real.

"We will also test out our communications as, during a real flood, there would be constant inquiries from the media and the public. So members of our staff and journalism students will phone up requesting information."

The exercise will be particularly valuable for the communities of Garforth, Collingham and the Dunhill Estate at Halton, which have their own flood-prevention plans.

Residents living in areas of risk can get information from the Environment Agency website or the floodline, 0845 988 1188.

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