Barrels Of BSE Waste Float
Away In Britain's Worst Floods
By Oliver Wright and Simon de Bruxelles
The Times Newspapers (London)
The south of England was last night preparing for yet more flooding after weather forecasters predicted two more days of heavy rain.
The Met Office issued a severe weather warning for up to 50mm of rain in parts of southeast England while the Environment Agency admitted the worst of the flooding "was not yet over.
Last night the agency had 23 severe flood warnings in place on 13 rivers but said that while flooding might subside in Yorkshire, more rivers could burst their banks in Kent and Sussex, which have already suffered devastating damage.
"It looks like it may all happen over again, said a spokesman. "We really need a prolonged period of dry weather but it doesn,t look like that is going to happen.
About 5,500 properties across Britain have now been swamped by the floods and troops continued to work yesterday to stop further flooding in Selby, North Yorkshire.
A police spokesman said around a quarter of a million sandbags had been laid at a rate of about a tonne a minute on the banks of the River Ouse using Chinook helicopters, but the river continued to "leak.
Nearly 30 people were evacuated from 21 properties in York because of sewage problems while in Selby pumps had to be brought in from The Netherlands.
The Environment Agency issued a warning that there could be further problems along the River Severn at the weekend in towns which are being threatened by a combination of factors, including high tides. Chichester in West Sussex was also being monitored carefully.
The Environment Agency became involved in another emergency as officials started a race to trace six drums of BSE-contaminated waste missing from a chemical plant damaged by an explosion ten days ago. The chemical disposal depot on the banks of the Severn where they were stored is expected to be inundated for the third time since the explosion.
As workmen in full protective gear began the task of moving damaged containers of toxic materials to higher ground, others were searching for the missing barrels of BSE waste. They want to ensure they are no longer on the site in case the Severn floods as anticipated by the weekend.
Villagers living in Sandhurst, Gloucestershire, have called for a public inquiry into the explosion which caused a cloud of toxic gases to descend on their homes. Several say they have fallen ill since breathing the fumes.
At least one drum at the site has been leaking lethal poisons including arsenic and cadmium and casualties include dozens of rabbits found dead in nearby fields.
News that 13 drums of BSE waste were not only stored at the site but that six are unaccounted for has added to the residents, anger.
Visiting areas in North Yorkshire affected by the flooding, Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, praised the work of soldiers in shoring up defences. "I am told they have made a real difference in stopping many houses from being flooded, he said. "I have spoken to a number of soldiers involved and have been impressed by their real enthusiasm.
The Association of British Insurers said the cost of claims could reach £500 million. "Until the flooding subsides we will not have an accurate idea, a spokeswomen said.
Bob Mendelsohn, chief executive of Royal and Sun Alliance, said the floods had been serious for the company but "not earth-shattering.
The Met Office said the new weather system coming in from the West would bring more rain to most parts of southern England. "While the rain should pass quite quickly over the South West it looks as though it will slow as it moves. The South East could have two days of persistent rain with up to 50mm in some parts, a spokesman said. Already 390mm of rain has fallen this autumn, which could beat the record set in 1815.
Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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