Photos: U.K. towns submerged as swollen Thames bursts its banks

Massive flooding threatens the already waterlogged country

Topics: Extreme weather, Floods, UK, Climate Change, David Cameron, ,

Maybe because it’s always kind of rainy there, we across the pond have perhaps not appreciated the extent of Britain’s recent flooding. To recap: December was wet, and January was wetter, bringing three times the average amount of rain and setting a 250-year record.

Things reached a critical point, though, when the Thames burst its banks, threatening lives along with thousands of homes, shops and businesses. The U.K. Environment Ministry Monday issued 16 severe flood warnings — 14 along the river — as the counties of Surrey and Berkshire, which are west of London, and Somerset, in southwest England, find themselves underwater.

As with all local weather events, it’s difficult if not impossible to prove a direct link to climate change. But the chief scientist of the Met Office, the U.K.’s national weather service, explained to BBC News, ”There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly rain events.”

And, as is often the case, everyone’s looking for something more tangible to blame. Rappler reports on the clash between pols and scientists:

Communities minister Eric Pickles joined the attack on Sunday, February 9, suggesting the government “perhaps relied too much on the Environment Agency’s advice” on flood prevention.

“I am really sorry that we took the advice… we thought we were dealing with experts,” Pickles, a member of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party, told BBC TV.

Chris Smith, the head of the Environment Agency, hit back on Monday and accused ministers for holding back vital funds.

“When I hear someone criticizing the expertise and professionalism of my staff in the Environment Agency who know more about flood risk management – 100 times more about flood risk management – than any politician ever does, I am not going to sit idly by,” he said.

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For his part, Prime Minister David Cameron, despite referring to the floods as “biblical,” has said that the U.K. needs to prepare for more extreme weather in its future. In the even nearer future, the government’s out in force bringing aide to affected areas and preparing for more: the already-swollen Thames is expected to continue to rise for the next 24 hours.

Below, dramatic images from the floods:

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    England underwater

    Women wade through a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

    England underwater

    A woman wades through a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

    England underwater

    Children react in a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

    England underwater

    A woman sits in a boat pushed by her companions through a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

    England underwater

    People loads their boats with sandbags on a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

    England underwater

    People build a defensive wall with sandbags on a flooded street, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

    England underwater

    Trees in a park by the River Thames, in Datchet, England, submerged in water, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

    England underwater

    A railway workers walks across the flooded railway tracks, in Datchet, England, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

    England underwater

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Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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