Towns and cities hit by flash flooding 51 times since 2007

Bright Blue has released new research revealing the impact of flooding in the UK since 2007, using a novel AI technique to unearth and analyse local, regional, and national newspaper articles.

The report collates and presents data on the real impacts of flooding and related hazards on local communities, key public services such as healthcare and education, critical infrastructure such as transport and energy, and a range of businesses across the UK by analysing archives of thousands of local, regional, and national newspaper articles since 2007. This is done using a form of artificial intelligence called Natural Language Processing (NLP).

The evidence was used to create a UK Flood Impact Map, an original interactive map of flood impacts in the UK, created in partnership with ClimateNode. While extensive, the analysis is not exhaustive, as it only covers a sample of the articles published since 2007, and not all flooding incidents will have been reported.

Bright Blue’s analysis using NLP has revealed that there have been at least 51 flash flood events in major urban areas since 2007. This includes at least ten in London, at least seven in Birmingham and the West Midlands, at least seven in Merseyside, at least six in Greater Manchester, and at least six in Edinburgh. There have also been many others in smaller urban areas.

As a result, at least 15 hospitals have experienced flooding causing disruption or imminent risk of disruption to patient services or hospital support services and at least 68 schools have suffered sufficient water entering buildings to disrupt lessons, or school transport stuck in floodwater, including 22 with at least significant damage and seven with severe damage.

Helen Jackson, Associate Fellow at Bright Blue and report author, said: “The disruption caused by Storm Arwen highlights the need to make our infrastructure resilient to extreme weather, and be more preventative and less reactive. Many towns and cities in the UK are seeing repeat episodes of flash flooding affecting households, businesses, and transport systems.

“We need to recognise this trend and do much more to ensure our urban drainage and sewer systems can cope with heavy rainfall as the climate changes. This should include limiting the spread of impermeable surfaces in our cities and ensuring basic measures like drain cleaning are not overlooked. The recent furore over sewage spills highlighted the importance of adequate drainage and sewerage systems for environmental quality – but this is not just an environmental issue, it is a public safety issue.”


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