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Shropshire Star comment: A miserable outcome for residents

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Finally, defeated, and for the first time. The flood barriers at Ironbridge have spared residents – some residents – incalculable anguish. But now we have seen the limits of their protective powers.

The flood barriers in Ironbridge. Photo: Roadside 24/7 Recovery

Having failed to cascade over the top, the River Severn found another way, bending and buckling the defences and eventually finding a chink in the armour. Not over the top, but through and under.

It is the relentless persistence of this episode of flooding which has made the difference. Had the river simply risen alarmingly, and then subsided, all would have held. This time around the river has been knocking on the door almost constantly for over a week and ultimately found a way to force its way in.

It is a miserable outcome for the residents and also for those dedicated teams who have fought so long and so hard. The Environment Agency, council, emergency services, and ordinary people mucking in, have done a fantastic job. They have toiled tirelessly and gone the extra mile. They can be proud of what they have done which, had the Severn been less insistent, would have been rewarded with success.

A hard lesson has now been learned which realistically was only ever likely to be learned when the barriers were given a test which took them to the limits. At Ironbridge they are temporary barriers, which proved high enough, although it was a near-run thing, but were not strong enough.

We can be certain that Ironbridge and other river towns will be hit by serious floods again, it only being a question of when, and if the defences have been defeated once, then they can be defeated again unless they are beefed up.

The issue was raised with the Prime Minister in the Commons by local MPs Daniel Kawczynski and Philip Dunne. The big question for Ironbridge now is whether it is prepared to go for permanent flood defences, which could affect the appearance of the riverside.

While this is a town which brings in tourists, there are no tourists when it floods. And townsfolk on the receiving end may well say: Enough is enough.

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So much in modern life revolves around balancing risks.

Sometimes it is not the statistical risk which governs human behaviour, but a raw fear of the new and the unknown.

The shadow of the coronavirus has been cast over Wolves’ match in Catalonia tonight. The thousands of fans who have been planning to make the trip have to decide whether their desire to support their team trumps the risk, in the light of a woman in Barcelona becoming the first confirmed case of the virus on mainland Spain.

Albert Bates of the Wolves Supporters Club advises them to stay home and watch it on television.

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Until and unless the match is cancelled, or supporters are banned from travelling, fans have been left with making their own choice. Is watching Wolves worth the risk?

A virus spreading across continents does have special dangers, as we know from history.

Against that, objectively the number of European cases is so far small, and if Wolves fans thought they were more likely to get run over while walking to the stadium than be infected by the virus, they might well be right.

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