4 million at risk if dams burst

July 16, 2008 at 7:40 pm

A report on last summer’s floods has revealed the alarming news that 4 million of us could be at risk if dams or reservoirs burst. For each of the dams or reservoirs which poses a risk, thousands of houses would be swept away and energy supplies to vast swathes of the country cut off.

According to Sir Michael Pitt, who headed the enquiry, the people at risk are living in ignorance since the “inundation maps” showing the problem areas are kept secret, even from the emergency services, because of the threat of the information falling into the hands of terrorists.

Sir Michael has criticised the culture of secrecy, saying that it causes “unnecessary risk” and that people must be told of the danger to their lives. Water UK, which represents the water industry, has said that it “broadly agrees” with Sir Michael but that it is up to the Government to decide how much of this information “should be in the public domain”.

Last summer the Ulley dam near Rotherham in South Yorkshire came close to bursting and part of the M1 had to be closed and a thousand people evacuated in the middle of the night. Because inundation maps were not available to the emergency services, they had to draw up their own from Ordnance Survey maps and, as a result, over-estimated the risk evacuating more homes than was necessary.

Things are different in Europe and America where the emergency services have free access to the sort of information, which is so well guarded in the UK.

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