David Cameron said yesterday (Tuesday) that "money is no object" as he declared Britain's floods were a national emergency and staked his personal authority on rebuilding damaged regions and making them more resilient to extreme weather.
The Prime Minister called for the country to "unite in a great national effort" to repair the damage from flooding that has brought misery to the south and south-west of England. He added that Britain needed to prepare for the prospect of more frequent flooding.
"Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for, it will be spent," Mr Cameron said, adding that more Armed Forces personnel could be deployed to join 1,500 already in Somerset and the Thames Valley.
Despite a major injection of public money in which even uninsured households will be given cash for repairs, it will be a "depressingly long period of time" before many parts of England return to normal, he said.
Once the damage is finally repaired, much more will have to be done to strengthen flood defences since this winter's extreme weather is likely to be repeated, he added.
After a two-day tour of flood-affected areas, Mr Cameron returned to Downing Street and took a political gamble on the Government's ability to tackle the flooding and prepare Britain for similar challenges in future. "I will continue to lead the national response," he said, announcing he was cancelling a Middle East trip next week to focus on flooding.
Mr Cameron spoke as:
-- Scientists warned that it may take until May for the flood waters to subside;
-- Oxford University confirmed that the country was enduring its wettest winter for 250 years;
-- Network Rail said it could take months before train timetables, badly hit by flooding in the South, are back to normal.
At a Downing Street press conference, Mr Cameron ducked questions about whether human activity has changed the climate and contributed to the flooding.
Whatever the cause, he said, Britain was facing ever-more volatile weather, meaning the country must become more "resilient" to heavy rain and rising waters. "We should all unite in a great national effort to deal with these problems and to address them head on and make our country more resilient," he said. That could mean major changes in transport networks, housing and other infrastructure.
"Once this water has subsided we need to sit down again with the Environment Agency and affected local authorities and look at all the transport links and everything and say, 'Right, now we've seen the latest lot of floods, what more can we do? What should we do differently? Are there different bits of infrastructure that need extra protection?'"
He added: "It will take time, but together we will deal with these floods, we will get our country back on its feet and we will build a more resilient country."
Mr Cameron's warning of a "long haul" back to normal life was underlined by the Environment Agency, which said there is "no end in sight" to the bad weather.
More than 1,000 properties have now been flooded, of which 800 are on or near the Thames, according to the agency. That number is likely to rise over the week.
Kate Marks, a senior Environment Agency flood adviser, said a "double pulse" of rain expected in southern England last night suggested the crisis is far from over.
She said: "If we get dry weather from this point forwards then it will be weeks if not months to drain the levels down to a safe working level, but it is very much weather-dependent and there is no end in sight to this weather."