A A flood expert urged the UK to be better prepared after parts of London were submerged in dangerous flood water for the second time in two weeks.
Londoners have been seen wading through potentially contaminated floodwater on the streets and sewage overflowing from toilets as thunderstorms brought heavy rain on Sunday.
Flood specialist and engineer Simon Crowther said the floods posed a “real risk to life” that would have an extremely large impact on health and the economy.
“Floods are the biggest threat to the UK due to climate change. Homeowners need to check their flood risk and take action to reduce it, ”he said.
“It’s devastating and traumatic to see any place inundated. We really need to take flood management seriously because it won’t just be about cleaning up but dealing with a real threat to life.
“So far the approach has been very reactive, but I think these events have shown that we really need to be more proactive.
“Water gushes out of the toilet and floods people’s apartments, which is the worst because other people’s sewage goes straight into your house. ”
Health risks from flooding and dirty water include Weils’ disease and hepatitis, the expert explains.
The engineer called for flood management to be taken more seriously in the UK and stressed the need for awareness campaigns.
“The fact that we’ve had two severe floods in two weeks only underscores that this is a risk that is really being overlooked,” he said.
“People think this is something that will only happen once every hundred years, but it just isn’t the case anymore.
“What I find disheartening is when you see the toilet overflowing a valve to prevent this from happening costs around £ 60, but no one has installed them. “
What we see the most are surface water flooding which presents real dangers to people walking, unable to see below the surface, he added.
“A manhole could get dislodged and you could be sucked into an underground sewer. You also don’t know if there is debris or contamination in the flood water.
“My advice would be to avoid all flood water at best, but in the UK it seems like there is always a case of ‘take out the kayak or the rubber ring’ because people aren’t aware of the risks. “
Mr Crowther highlighted the links between climate change and recent severe flooding around the world.
“But it could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week, or it could be ten years from now.
“It will happen again and we need to be better prepared. “
Climate change behind the swing in extreme weather conditions
“When we see how many people have lost their lives in Germany and China, we see a massive deterioration in the climate,” Crowther said.
“In Turkey the same week they recorded their hottest day in history, then on Thursday they suffered massive flooding.
“We are certainly seeing a massive change that we are just not prepared for.
“The London drainage system was designed very intelligently by the Victorians so that instead of being overloaded, the water was designed to overflow into the Thames.
“But that creates other problems because every time it rains, we pour water into the rivers. This is something that certainly requires more investment to move forward. “