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British insurers called in for floods talks
by Staff Writers
London Feb 18, 2014

Insurance chiefs were called in for talks with the British government on Tuesday about payouts over the widespread flooding that has left thousands of homes submerged, amid signs that bills could run into hundreds of millions of pounds. River levels are expected to fall gradually this week, though the misery is unlikely to end any time soon for the towns and villages affected. With groundwater levels high after the wettest January since 1766 in southern England, it could take several weeks for water to drain away from flooded land. Insurance industry chiefs held a first monthly meeting with floods minister Dan Rogerson at the Cabinet Office ministry in London. Insurers have paid out 14 million ($23 million, 17 million euros) since December in emergency claims, typically between 500 and 3,000. A further 24 million has been paid out for emergency accommodation, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Their insurers dealt with more than 170,000 claims for damage caused between December 23 and January 8. The flooding spread later in January. Insurance firms pledged to look at their use of costly telephone lines for customers calling for help. Consumer body Which? said claimants were often running up bills of up to 41 pence per minute. Rogerson said the industry had "got the message" on call charges. "We had a positive and constructive meeting with the insurance industry on the steps that they are taking to get people back on their feet as quickly as possible after the flooding," he said. ABI director general Otto Thoresen said the situation was "under control", while insurers "emphasised the long recovery process ahead and their commitment to helping customers". Aidan Kerr, the ABI's head of property, refused to rule out a hike in insurance premiums as a result of the floods. "It's far too early to say what will happen to premiums," he told BBC radio. "The industry position is that there should be a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate development on flood plains." The opposition Labour Party called the meeting a "vacuous public relations stunt". "Three hapless junior ministers booking a meeting room does not constitute a serious response to the flooding crisis," said lawmaker Michael Dugher. Two severe flood warnings, meaning there is a risk to life, remain in place on the Somerset Levels in southwest England, drained marshland that has been swamped since December. The warnings on the River Thames have been downgraded. The Environment Agency said river levels would start to gradually fall this week. However, the Severn, Britain's longest river, poses a risk of ongoing flooding until Thursday.


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Britain gets respite from flooding crisis
London (AFP) Feb 17, 2014
Britain's flooding crisis eased with the arrival of drier weather following a series of fierce storms, while the government on Monday pledged a Pounds 10 million package of support for flood-hit businesses. The country is counting the cost of storms that have claimed several lives and left tens of thousands of homes without power. Despite the drier weather conditions, swathes of Britain remain ... read more

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