British ministers will hold a first meeting with insurers today on how they’ll deal with record floods that have so far caused an estimated 600 million pounds ($1 billion) in damage.
Cabinet Office ministers Oliver Letwin and Jo Johnson are among those holding talks early this afternoon with the chief executive officers of Aviva Plc, Direct Line Insurance Group Plc, Axa SA, Lloyds Banking Group Plc and Ageas. The 600 million-pound estimate was drawn up by Ernst & Young, though the Financial Times has reported insurance industry executives citing amounts as high as 3.5 billion pounds.
“Ministers have requested an operational briefing on the immediate and longer-term practical recovery process to getting people back on their feet after the flooding, and the steps the industry is taking to ensure this process is as quick and simple as possible,” according to the statement issued by Prime Minister David Cameron’s office.
While the threat of further flooding has eased over the past couple of days, particularly on the River Thames, west of London, water levels remain high after a record spell of wet weather. The Environment Agency, which is responsible for flood defenses, says homes and businesses could remain inundated “for some time.” Southeast England is forecast to have a mixture of showers and rain-free days for the rest of this week.
Fourteen severe flood warnings, indicating a risk to life, that were in force for the Thames have now been lifted by the Environment Agency, though two are still in place on the Somerset Levels in southwest England, where the country’s largest ever pumping operation continues in a bid to drain inundated land.
Recent rainfall has also caused the River Severn, the U.K.’s longest, to rise, creating a continued risk of flooding in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. Groundwater flooding remains a concern in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and parts of London, the Environment Agency said.
Emergency payments to households and businesses totaled 14 million pounds since Dec. 23, while 24 million pounds has been spent on immediate alternative accommodation, Cameron’s office said, citing information provided by insurers. Companies assigned 1,800 extra staff to deal with customers.