Flooding fatalities and casualties in the West Midlands are at a 10 year high

National fire service bodies have linked the figures to the impact of climate change

Fatalities and casualties from flooding in the West Midlands have reached a 10 year high.

There were 27 flooding incidents, excluding bathing spots in 2019/20, according to Home Office data - the highest number since 2010/11.

The region has recorded far less flooding incidents since then - 619 down from 1,256 - but this is still the highest number of fire fighter call outs, excluding bathing spots, outside London.

The Home Office data analysed by BirminghamWorld shows that Greater London had 6,959 incidents. The next highest after the West Midlands was Greater Manchester with 554.

National fire service organisations have linked the statistics to the impact of climate change and also highlighted the threats staff cuts and a lack of funding pose to their ability to respond.

How do the flooding fatality and casualty statistics compare to prevous years?

This is also the fourth year in a row that the West Midlands has seen an increase of water and flooding incidents with a fatality or casualty.

In 2015-16, there were 18 flooding or water related incidents with a fatality or casualty in the West Midlands.

In 2016-17 there were 21, in 2017-18 there 23 recorded, and in 2018-19 there were 25.

Shropshire recorded the second highest amount of flooding fatalities and casualties in 2019-20, with 12.

The national picture

Across England as a whole, firefighter call-outs to floods reached a seven-year high last year, with rescues and casualties at their highest for at least a decade.

The data excludes rescues from settings where swimmers may have gotten into difficulty, such as lakes, rivers, beaches or the sea.

Instead, the data covers the types of incidents that could be affected by extreme weather – in homes, gardens and other buildings or on roads, pavements and from vehicles.

Boris Johnson visits Manchester during wet weatherBoris Johnson visits Manchester during wet weather
Boris Johnson visits Manchester during wet weather

What has been said about the figures?

The Fire Brigades Union said the analysis of rescue data “confirms what firefighters already know – as the effects of climate change increase, flooding is getting worse”.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the nation is in “real danger” this winter of seeing “ similar scenes to those in Europe this summer, when dozens of people lost their lives to floods”.

“Fire and rescue will be a key part of adapting to this element of climate change. Yet at the moment the Government isn’t even providing statutory funding specifically for flooding,” he continued.

“That needs to change. We’ve heard stories of firefighters left without dry suits, or left exposed to microbes in flood waters due to suits not being adequately decontaminated.

“Firefighters being left in a position where they can’t properly fight floods is a danger to them and to the public.

“We also need more sufficient staff to deal with the increases in flooding. Restoring the 20% of firefighters lost since 2010 would be a good place to start.”

What did West Midlands Fire Service said about the figures?

A spokesman for West Midlands Fire Service said: “The figures are a sobering reminder of how dangerous water can be, and why we all need to treat it with respect.

“In the UK in 2019, 223 people died from accidental drowning. We all need to be ‘water aware’ and take care in or near water.

“We respond to a wide range of water-related incidents, including people who have got into difficulty after swimming or falling into open water, rivers and canals.

“Only this week we rescued a driver whose car was stuck in the middle of a fast-flowing ford in Birmingham and rapidly filling with water.

“All of our firefighters receive water awareness and land-based water rescue training. A number of our crews are trained to wade in water, while other teams have higher level water and boat training which means they can respond to more challenging water incidents - both here in the West Midlands and further afield, if their expertise is called upon under national resilience arrangements.

“These specialist resources are set to increase when Sutton Coldfield fire station becomes our third Technical Rescue Unit base. Firefighters based there will also be specially-trained and equipped to respond to a range of incidents, including flooding and boat rescue.

“Our Community Risk Management Plan for the next three years takes account of many emerging risks - including the potential for more climate-related flooding.”

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