Flood defences will put people first, says the Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan

James Nickerson
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Severe Flooding Affects Northern England
There are still a number of flood warnings in place across the UK (Source: Getty)

After hundreds of people were forced to leave their homes in Yorkshire and Lancashire, the Environment Agency's chief executive has said "people will always come first" in the fight to defend the UK against flooding.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Sir James Bevan said: "If we have to choose between people and wildlife, we will always, of course, choose people."

"It's not just about better protection for people from floods - although that is a key part of it - it's about helping people and communities be more resilient when flooding actually happens," he added.

Read more: Hundreds forced to flee their homes

The government had come under fire as it was criticised that the existing flood defences had failed to protect people.

Many areas in the north of England were hit by flooding due to weeks of heavy rain, with the cities of Leeds and Manchester also affected.

There are still 20 flood warnings in place, meaning that flooding is expected and "immediate action is required".

Read more: Insurance losses from Storm Eva and Desmond top £1bn

In the past week, more than 7,300 homes were flooded across the north of England as river levels reached record highs. Hundreds of families had to evacuate their homes over the Christmas period, with many more left without electricity.

Meanwhile, PwC has warned that the economic losses from the storms Desmond and Eva will be between £1.6bn and £2.3bn, while insured losses will hit £900m-£1.2bn.

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