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MOORLAND, England Feb 19 The village of
Moorland in southwest England lies largely deserted, eerily
silent save for the creaking of flood defences which failed to
stop the flow of muddy brown water now standing chest-high along
its main street.
Its residents were among thousands across England who fell
victim to the country's wettest January in nearly 250 years,
with heavy rain and storms damaging homes, businesses and
transport links and heaping pressure on a government criticised
for being too slow to react.
In Moorland, part of the badly hit Somerset Levels region
where more than 65 million cubic metres of flood water is being
pumped out at a rate of 3 million cubic metres a day, water
stretches out in all directions as far as the eye can see.
The air reeks of petrol leaking from cars which float
abandoned along with other debris in the still-rising water.
Sandbags are stacked up outside empty houses.
Phil Vize is one of a handful of residents who remain, water
lapping around his legs as he makes coffee in the kitchen of the
house his wife's family have lived in for generations.
He has moved what furniture would fit into the upstairs
rooms of the house, but his collection of vintage cars already
lies submerged outside.
"I'm trying to save everything I can but there's just too
much stuff, too many memories," he said.
Most of Moorland's few remaining residents say they will try
to save photos and pets if they are forced to go.
"Once the sentimentality was out of the way I wasn't
bothered about my TV etc, I was only interested in my pets,"
said dog-owner Angela Greenway, who is co-ordinating the
distribution of donated supplies from her house.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said money is no object in
the relief effort, pledging 130 million pounds ($220 million) of
extra funding to help tackle the floods as well as schemes to
help affected households and businesses.
But Britain's two-party coalition government has faced
increasing pressure over the situation, with critics saying
problems have been exacerbated by years of under-investment in
river dredging and flood defences.
Several politicians who have donned rubber boots to wade
through muddy waters on visits to flooded areas have received a
rough ride from residents angry at the government's response.
A poll by ComRes for ITV News over the weekend found 72
percent did not think the government was in control of the
flooding situation, with nearly two thirds of the 2,031 people
surveyed saying it did not respond well to the crisis.
The Environment Agency has warned it may take months for the
ground-water level to drop, after January saw five months' worth
of rain in just 19 days. Two severe flood warnings remain in
place for the southwest of England.
"I'm going to stay and hope it doesn't get much worse," said
Vize. "Surely it can't get any worse?"
(Reporting by Cathal MacNaughton, Writing by Kylie MacLellan;
editing by Stephen Addison)