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Church bells will ring SOS to alert villagers of flooding in southwest UK

Staff Writer |
Church bells are to be used as a back-up warning for flooding in the English village of Starcross, in Devon, the Environment Agency (EA) said Monday.

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The bells of St Paul's Church in the village, which has a population of less than 1,809, will ring an SOS in the event of a flood warning if all usual forms of communications fail.

The EA has worked with Starcross Flood Group, St Paul's Church and flood wardens to create a contingency plan unique to the village if all usual forms of communication fail.

The chances of residents not getting warned by traditional electronic methods via the flood warning service are remote.

But every flood plan has a contingency and Megan Debenham, the Flood Group Co-ordinator for Starcross, suggested using the 18th and 19th-century bells in St Paul's Church.

Community fundraisers and funding from the Environment Agency has restored the bells and surrounding masonry to their former glory and the bells returned to their tower last week after an absence of 4 months.

"While flood wardens knocking on doors is the most obvious solution, if flooding is at night, then residents could be asleep or wary of answering the door," said Jane Fletcher-Peters of the Environment Agency.

"So we work together to find practical solutions like shining car headlights into houses and making people aware if that is accompanied by knocking, it could be a flood warden at the door," she added.

Starcross is very much a boating community so it made sense that if the church bells were sounded to warn of flood, ringers would adopt an SOS peal familiar to residents.

Tim Miles, churchwarden of St Paul's Church, said: "We are very excited to welcome the bells back to the church and will sleep soundly knowing they are ready if needed to warn villagers of flooding."

Starcross' use of the church bells comes 13 months after a 5.25 million U.S. dollar EA project to better protect more than 600 properties from coastal flooding in the area.

An EA spokesperson said: "There are 5.2 million homes and businesses in England at risk of flooding. The Environment Agency monitors flood risk and issues alerts and warnings."


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