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Anti-flood testing scheme under way

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A £1.8 million operation, announced by ministers as Britain's "largest civil defence exercise ever" is being carried out to test readiness for devastating floods in England and Wales.

Around 10,000 people, 10 government departments, emergency services, utility companies and communities will be involved in Exercise Watermark over the coming week.

It will test how the Government, local authorities, emergency services and communities deal with flash floods, overflowing rivers, a reservoir threatening to burst and even a North Sea tidal surge in different areas.

Flood response tests mean the exercise fulfils one of the recommendations of the official review by Sir Michael Pitt into the 2007 floods which devastated parts of Yorkshire, the Midlands and the West Country.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said the flood budget had been protected "way in excess" of other areas of funding as it was a priority of Government.

He said ministers had ambitions to protect an extra 145,000 homes from flooding over the next four to five years. Any such measures are likely to see homeowners raising their hopes for improved home insurance premiums. Mr Benyon said even more could be done as small measures such as raising curbs or putting in low walls of bricks to protect households from surface water flooding, which caused much of the damage in 2007.

© Press Association 2011