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Where ‘danger to life’ alerts have been issued as Storm Ciarán approaches

Flood warnings are in place across swathes of the country as Britain prepares for Storm Ciarán, with fears that it is likely to bring “disaster” to our rivers.

Amber weather warnings have been issued for the South West and south coast for Thursday as Storm Ciarán heads towards the UK. Yellow warnings are in place for many other parts of the country, including Wales and the North East.

The Met Office warned that strong winds could bring a danger to life across the areas covered by the amber warnings as a result of flying debris.

It comes as parts of Northern Ireland experienced flooding on Tuesday, including the city of Newry where heavy rain caused the canal to burst its banks.

People row a boat through water as it flows through streets after heavy rain caused extensive flooding, ahead of the arrival of Storm Ciaran, in the city centre of Newry, Northern Ireland, October 31, 2023. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
People row a boat through water as it flows through streets in the city centre of Newry, Northern Ireland (Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne)

Storm Ciarán is the second major storm to hit the UK in the space of two weeks after Storm Babet brought heavy flooding to areas including Scotland, Yorkshire and the Midlands. At least seven people are known to have died as a result of Storm Babet.

A total of 26 flood warnings remained in place across England and Wales on Tuesday afternoon as parts of the country prepared for a second battering of heavy rain.

Many of the warnings were for the south of England, with several warnings in place across Cornwall and the South Downs. Two warnings were in place on the Isle of Wight.

Alongside the devastation being brought to many homes and businesses, environmental campaigners have been sounding the alarm over the impact the ongoing extreme weather is having on the country’s rivers.

The stormy weather has brought a dramatic increase in the amount of sewage being discharged into our waterways, as our infrastructure has become overwhelmed with the volume of rainwater.

Meanwhile, the rain has also led to pollutants from farms and motorways being washed into waterways.

Kim Waters, founder of Welsh Rivers Union, said Storm Ciarán is going to be a “disaster” for Wales’ rivers, particularly due to the timing in the farming cycle.

He said there are “huge amounts of bare soil across Wales” at the moment due to the harvesting of maize and the recent planting of winter wheat, which will likely be washed directly into the rivers as a result of the heavy rain.

Agricultural runoff is one of the leading causes of pollution in the UK’s rivers as nutrient-rich soil causes damage to wildlife and our river ecosystems.

Mr Waters said Storm Ciarán was happening “at the exact wrong time”.

“Trout are literally laying their eggs now. Some salmon are laying their eggs and with the huge amount of silt and soil going into rivers, they just get suffocated,” he said.

Simon Collins, co-founder of the River Mole River Watch, said the group was “concerned” about water quality as much of the south of England prepared for Storm Ciarán.

He said there has already been close to 200 hours of sewage discharge into the river over the past three days, while the waterway is also particularly vulnerable to pollution from motorways due to its proximity to the M25 and M23.

During times of heavy rain, oil, petrol and tyre wear are washed into rivers, which can kill fish and cause long-term damage to waterways.

A new online map published by the charity Thames21, partly funded by the Mayor of London, shows the parts of the city that are worst affected by contaminated rainwater being washed into rivers, with Barking and Dagenham and Barnet being highlighted as the two worst areas.

“Anything major, over 50,000 vehicles a day, equates to a serious risk of road runoff pollution… all of these horrible elements dripping out of the back of exhausts and tyre wear, all of this is washed off into the river, usually attached to silt,” Mr Collins said.

Dr Ceri Gibson, CEO of Tyne Rivers Trust, said there are a variety of ways the rivers within their region will be impacted by Storm Ciarán this week, including agricultural run-off and sewage pollution.

“In a nutshell, storms are not great for rivers,” she said. “Especially when the time between storms can be so small. Many rivers are still recovering after Storm Babet and now we’ve got Ciaran to contend, which adds an extra layer of pressure on already high water courses.”

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