« | Home | »

The Blame Game

Tags:

The government blame game about the floods is in full spate. Eric Pickles is a penitent convert to dredging. ‘For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong,’ H.L. Mencken said. The Somerset Levels have been flooding regularly since well before the Domesday Book. Pumping has been going on for almost 200 years. But once the media have got a grip, scapegoats must be found. I expect that a Public Inquiry will be announced soon, ostensibly ‘to get to the truth’ but really to kick everything into touch.

To dredge or not to dredge is not the only issue. In Kent, local politicians are worried about sewage germs in the water. Cases of flood-associated infection are very hard to find in the developed world. The risk is extremely low, though extremely low doesn’t mean non-existent.

Leptospirosis is contracted by exposure to fresh water contaminated with rodent urine. In 2012 there were 72 cases in England and Wales. Only one was fatal; 22 were infected abroad; 25 occurred in people engaged in water sports, canoeing, swimming, fishing’; one was in an attempted suicide by drowning; 18 were classified as occupational – farmers, water sport instructors, a local authority road kill collector, and a pub manager ‘cleaning out flood water’.

On 30 May 2005 there was a cloudburst at Salzburg. A party of American tourists helped to clean up their hotel. Toilet paper and faeces were evident. Six firefighters and 26 tourists who assisted in the clean up came down with norovirus gastroenteritis.

I live in the north-east of Scotland. We have been getting the tail end of the depressions that have been inundating southern England and taking out Brunel’s 1840s railway engineering. Our ski slopes have had more snow than Sochi. But we have not escaped tragedy. Peter Trudgill was watching the sea at Stonehaven Harbour on 18 January. He was swept away and died. Fraser Carrington was night fishing at Tangleha, near St Cyrus. The sea claimed him, too. Its ferocity has been our problem. I have a house near Banff. It is about 60 feet from a wall built after the great storm surge of 1953. But on the night of 5 December the sea came through my front door.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement