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National flooding emergency exercise planned

The Environment Department has confirmed that one of the biggest emergency exercises ever will take place in England and Wales next year to test responses to severe flooding from rivers, the sea, reservoirs and flash floods.

A number of scenarios that could develop in the face of different types of flooding will be covered in Exercise Watermark. Hospitals, the Ministry of Defence, Network Rail and the Flood Forecasting Centre are among the organisations that have already signed up for the exercise, while companies including the Bank of England, Vodafone and EDF Energy will test their arrangements in the face of flooding as part of the scheme.

Local communities will also run their own scheme alongside the national exercise, including the evacuation of an area of Sutton on Sea, Lincolnshire, to a processing centre for an overnight stay.

The UK has been hit by a number of major floods in recent years, including flooding in Cumbria, flash floods in Boscastle, Cornwall, and the 2007 floods which devastated parts of Yorkshire, the Midlands and the West Country.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: “Climate change means that flooding will be unavoidable in the future, so we must take steps now to analyse the risk and plan ahead. Exercise Watermark will be a real test of our ability to deal with a range of flooding issues such as burst riverbanks, surface water flooding and reservoir failure.”

Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, said: “Exercise Watermark will test all aspects of severe flooding across England and Wales, making it one of the biggest ever emergency exercises. The effects of flooding can be devastating so it is essential that we are all prepared to deal with flood risk.”

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