diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Flood

One further feature of global warming is the increased risk of flooding in the future. More unpredictable and extreme weather systems, more frequent and violent storms, all will doubtless lead to more widespread flooding and drought. (That's unless you're President Bush, of course, in which case global warming is merely a fiction invented by anti-capitalists and we should just all get out there and buy more petrol). There's been an awful lot of flooding recently, all over, and insurance premiums are rising almost as fast as the floodwaters. Major floods that have only happened before say, every 100 years on average, may now start to happen every 10 or 20 years. And this is not good news for London.

50 years ago a huge storm surge swept down the East Coast of England towards London. East Anglia was badly hit, and 1307 people lost their lives. Expect to hear a lot more about this appalling disaster in the media as the anniversary approaches at the end of this month. Look East will no doubt devote a week to special reports from Kings Lynn to Felixstowe. However, the floods subsided just in time to save the city of London, where only Docklands was submerged, and being well before the arrival of corporate bankers and Pret A Manger this didn't actually kill anyone. The Thames flood barrier has since provided Londoners with some much-needed protection, but with global warming even this may not be enough in the future.

Yesterday I bought a new paperback telling the fictional story of a future flood surge on London. Flood by Richard Doyle (Arrow, £6.99, but currently £3.99 at W H Smiths) is a book outlining what could happen if the worst possible tide came upriver towards an unprepared capital. I can usually devour a good book in less than 24 hours, although work's got in the way of that particular target today. As a result I'm only halfway through, although it's great to read about places you know suffering doom, death and disaster. I can say this because I live right on the edge of the flood zone, although the McDonalds just down the road is doomed, which is good news. So far it's been a pleasure to read about the destruction of Suffolk and Canvey Island, and not a moment too soon I reckon. The Dome looks like it'll go under next, a fire is about to sweep upstream from a blazing chemical terminal, and something terrible but as yet unspecified looks imminent on the Jubilee Line.

The author's come up with an excellent website, both to plug the book and to fill in lots of detailed background information about the threat of flooding in London. I would have to be a cynic to think that the book has been launched to ride the tidal wave of publicity due to mark the anniversary of the 1953 floods (OK, OK, I'm a cynic) but it's a good read and disturbingly plausible. Now, where did I get up to? Ah yes, Bluewater, your turn to go under next...


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