On Sunday, the residents of London were caught up in flash floods following a heavy downpour, reigniting conversations about climate change preparedness. Experts have previously warned that the world’s largest cities are at the risk of facing devastating climate change consequences, which they are not prepared to handle.

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Images from Sunday’s floods show Londoners wandering through floodwater, not knowing what to do or where to go. Some drivers even attempted to drive through the water against expert warnings. According to the London Fire Brigade, over 1,000 emergency calls relating to floods were made on Sunday, indicating that most people were caught unprepared.

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The situation caused two London hospitals to scale down operations, a reminder that even the world’s richest cities can be affected by climate change. London is one of the world’s largest cities, designed without considerations for severe flooding events. Parts of the city are built on flood plains and use a Victorian drainage system unable to withstand intense flash floods.

“It’s deeply concerning that we’re seeing hospital emergency departments having to close because they flooded, something certainly needs to be done to make sure that critical infrastructure is not at risk,” said Liz Stephens, associate professor at the University of Reading’s department of geography and environmental science.

The Greater London Authority data shows that about 17% of the city is at high or medium risk of flooding. With more than 1 million Londoners living within flood plains, the city may find it difficult to cope with climate change-related flooding events. Recently, the city has developed a flood defense strategy along the River Thames, but such barriers have been unable to deal with flash floods.

According to Stephens, even weather forecasting warnings are not enough to help the residents stay protected from flooding events. “I think there was an amber warning which tells you that that there could well be severe impacts, but the amber warning covered a very large area of southeast England,” said Stephens. “So really as an individual, what would you do with that kind of information. If you don’t know that your property is at risk of flooding, and you’ve got some very broad scale flood warning or not even a flood warning.”


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