Floods in Britain

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This year was the UK's wettest ever recorded summer. In June and July there were a number of exceptional floods throughout the country. In one day, on June 25, an entire month's rain fell on some parts of Britain. In Sheffield the drainage system was rapidly overwhelmed, causing flash flooding. The Ulley reservoir was full to almost breaking point. The authorities closed the M1 motorway near Sheffield, fearing that it would be washed away.

Another major cloudburst occurred on July 20. The rainfall led to flooding in the South Midlands. The rivers Severn and Thames burst their banks. Thousands of homes and businesses were flooded. Electricity sub stations and water treatment plants were overwhelmed. Many people in Gloucestershire were without water and electricity for several days. Emergency water supplies were delivered to the effected areas, but these quickly ran out and some were reported as vandalised.

The media looked back to the last great floods. In March 1947 Britain had been through an exceptionally cold winter with snowfall greater than anyone could remember. The great thaw began with an inch of rain in a few hours that could not be absorbed by the icy ground. The snow began to melt and continued over the next few weeks. Floods were widespread as the accumulation of ice and snow turned to water. The floods of 1947 affected more people over a larger area, but, unlike 1947, the 2007 floods were in the middle of summer and the flood water came almost solely from heavy rainfall.

Radio phone-ins had a full range of responses. Some wished to show their solidarity with the victims and called for the government to help them out financially. Others were less generous, suggesting uninsured householders only had themselves to blame. The uninsured were often characterised as being greedy individuals who were happy to spend money on luxuries like satellite television and four wheel drive cars, but lacked the prudence to insure their homes. This had echoes of the morality of the workhouse; the bourgeoisie dividing the victims in capitalist society between the ‘deserving' and ‘undeserving poor'.

The government's policy of promoting mass housebuilding while ignoring the dangers of building on flood plains was generally criticised. For example a tenant farmer in Staffordshire, whose livestock was drowned in the floods, complained that he will have to leave his land in a few years to make way for new houses. While acknowledging the problem, the government has said it has no intention of changing its plans.

The extreme weather in the UK is not an isolated event. In August the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) produced a press release on record extreme weather in 2007. It recorded that the Indian sub-continent had experienced double the monsoon depressions in June and July leading to major floods, displacing 10 million people and killing 500. The Arabian Sea experienced its first ever recorded cyclone in June. Germany had the wettest May recorded. Mozambique suffered severe flooding in February. The river Nile was flooded in Sudan in June. The Maldives were swamped by waves between 3 and 4.5 meters high in May. In May Uruguay had its worst flooding since 1959. In June, July and August south-eastern Europe experienced extreme heat waves; Bulgaria recorded a temperature record of 45° C. Russia recorded its highest temperature for May. Europe experienced its warmest ever April. The southern hemisphere had an exceptionally cold winter. In South America some regions experienced rare snow falls. In Argentina temperatures reached as low as -22°C. In June South Africa experienced its first significant snow since 1981. Many European countries recorded their warmest Januarys. The WMO were keen to make the links between the projections of more extreme weather and climate change and the events experienced this year.

Extreme weather has continued since. North Korea has called for international relief aid after 300,000 people were made homeless through flooding. 300 are dead or missing, 46,580 homes, 400 commercial plants and 20 mines were flooded. China has had extensive flooding, destroying large areas of land and homes. Deadly flooding is an annual problem for those living on reclaimed farmland on China's flood plains. On 18 August AFP reported that 172 miners were trapped underground by flooding. The director of the mine said they had a slim chance of survival. 14 miners were rescued from another mine the day before. 69 were rescued on 1 August. China has the most dangerous mines in the world with 4700 killed in 2006.

Scientists say that no one event can be linked to global warming. The science of global warming is about averages over long periods. It is easy to dismiss any event as being a ‘natural' occurrence, and nothing to do with human-induced climate change, if looked at in isolation. The evidence suggests otherwise and we are faced with a long term problem with global warming. The bourgeoisie are unable to make capitalism green. To maintain growth is a matter of life and death for the system, even when that system threatens to destroy humanity. Even the deaths and homelessness caused by the recent worldwide flooding will not change a thing. Capitalism's mastery of nature is like mastering a violin with a sledge hammer. Ash 7/9/7