MOORLAND, England (Reuters) - The village of Moorland in southwest England lies largely deserted, eerily silent save for the creaking of flood defenses which failed to stop the flow of muddy brown water now standing chest-high along its main street.
Its residents were among thousands across England who fell victim to the country’s wettest January in nearly 250 years, with heavy rain and storms damaging homes, businesses and transport links and heaping pressure on a government criticized for being too slow to react.
In Moorland, part of the badly hit Somerset Levels region where more than 65 million cubic meters of flood water is being pumped out at a rate of 3 million cubic meters a day, water stretches out in all directions as far as the eye can see.
The air reeks of petrol leaking from cars which float abandoned along with other debris in the still-rising water. Sandbags are stacked up outside empty houses.
Phil Vize is one of a handful of residents who remain, water lapping around his legs as he makes coffee in the kitchen of the house his wife’s family have lived in for generations.
He has moved what furniture would fit into the upstairs rooms of the house, but his collection of vintage cars already lies submerged outside.
“I’m trying to save everything I can but there’s just too much stuff, too many memories,” he said.
Most of Moorland’s few remaining residents say they will try to save photos and pets if they are forced to go.
“Once the sentimentality was out of the way I wasn’t bothered about my TV etc, I was only interested in my pets,” said dog-owner Angela Greenway, who is co-coordinating the distribution of donated supplies from her house.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said money is no object in the relief effort, pledging 130 million pounds ($220 million) of extra funding to help tackle the floods as well as schemes to help affected households and businesses.
But Britain’s two-party coalition government has faced increasing pressure over the situation, with critics saying problems have been exacerbated by years of under-investment in river dredging and flood defenses.
Several politicians who have donned rubber boots to wade through muddy waters on visits to flooded areas have received a rough ride from residents angry at the government’s response.
A poll by ComRes for ITV News over the weekend found 72 percent did not think the government was in control of the flooding situation, with nearly two thirds of the 2,031 people surveyed saying it did not respond well to the crisis.
The Environment Agency has warned it may take months for the ground-water level to drop, after January saw five months’ worth of rain in just 19 days. Two severe flood warnings remain in place for the southwest of England.
“I’m going to stay and hope it doesn’t get much worse,” said Vize. “Surely it can’t get any worse?”
Reporting by Cathal MacNaughton, Writing by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Stephen Addison