THE ENVIRONMENT Agency's flood warning system has been condemned for being inadequate and unable to cope with floods last Easter which claimed five lives in England and Wales.
Criticism came in the preliminary report of an independent inquiry into the floods presented to the Agency this week.
The report blames 'unsatisfactory forecasting and warning dissemination, apparent slow reaction to events, confusion and misunderstanding among the public caught up in the floods, and unsatisfactory liaison between Agency staff and emergency services.'
The Easter weather was the first test of the Agency's flood warning system, set up in September 1996 when police handed over responsibility for alerting the public to the threat of flooding. (NCE 23 April). The Agency set up the inquiry after failing to meet its own targets of zero deaths during flooding.
The review said that while the Agency has in place 'a sturdy framework of strategies, policies and operational plans' the speed and intensity of the floods were a 'significant factor in those areas where performance fell short of the Agency's targets.' It claimed that telemetry systems and forecasting models were required to operate 'beyond their reliability limits'.