ABI warns of flood defence breach

08 November 2006
England's flood defences are vulnerable to breach from rising sea levels, a report from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) warns.

A mere 40cm sea level rise would expose 130,000 new properties to flood damage, bringing the total number of homes threatened to 400,000, according to the study.

The report, which examines the impact of rising water levels on coastal locations, calls for a minimum of £8 billion more investment in boosting flood defences over the next 25 to 30 years.

Up to £4 billion should be invested in repairing London's defences, including the aging Thames Barrier, built 23 years ago, which now requires closure for repairs around seven times yearly, the report argues.

Unless action is taken to protect London and the east coast, a single major flood could cost damage repairs bills totalling £16 billion, its authors claim.

"Climate change is happening now and we need to act now to manage it," said Stephen Haddrill, director general of the ABI.

Britain needs "a sustained and prolonged investment in coastal flood defences … to start now," he stressed.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has estimated that five million people and two million properties in England and Wales are in areas at risk of flooding.

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