Floods in Britain: The state is no protection

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Recent floods, in which people have died, have left more than 600 injured, and damaged 27,000 homes in Britain, particularly in Yorkshire. The emergency services were overloaded. Calls from people in the village of Toll Bar, near Doncaster, were unanswered for 24 hours. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans two years ago the federal authorities claimed they had not been aware of the 25,000 people suffering in the Convention Centre for several days, despite a great deal of TV coverage. People in Hull, forced out of their homes and into caravans or bed and breakfast must feel that the British state is similarly badly informed, since took practically two weeks for any of its representatives to take any notice. And there is a distinct lack of plans for the clean up and rebuilding of homes, schools, doctors' surgeries etc.

Planning is not just a matter of cleaning up and rebuilding, it is also a question of taking precautions against future disasters. The Sunday Times (1/7/07) reported that the government's current spending review, to be published in the autumn, envisages "our resource settlement over the next three years will be flat cash in line with our current 2007-08 baseline (a real-time reduction in funding) with any growth limited to capital investment". This would be entirely in line with the US state's failure to maintain the levees needed to protect New Orleans (see ‘Hurricane Katrina: a capitalist-made crisis', ICC Online). Ministerial denials about a cut in spending do not absolve capitalism from its responsibility for exacerbating the risk of flooding. There has been a surge in house building on flood plains since 1945, in spite of the worst flooding on record which took place in 1947 - due to the melting of thick snow on that occasion, rather than heavy rainfall. 1.7 million homes are at risk because of this. Even after the Environment Agency started objecting to house-building proposals for flood plains, 20% were still allowed and 160,000 homes are planned for the Thames estuary.

Alongside all the talk of the limiting carbon emissions and climate change, there are those who talk about the need to adapt to whatever level of global warming we face. The response to the floods in Britain today, like the response to Hurricane Katrina in the USA, or the Asian tsunami, show that capitalism cannot be trusted with that adaptation. As far as our rulers are concerned the poor and the working class can be left to rot, and the future sacrificed in the hope of short term profitability.

Alex 7/7/7.