Feb 17 - Floods engulfing the UK are causing misery for thousands of homeowners and travel chaos - and triggering concerns they could unbalance Britain's strong economic recovery. Ciara Sutton reports.
Engulfing towns and countryside, floods have triggered the biggest rescue operation in Britain since World War Two. Tens of thousands have been left without power, others evacuated from their homes after the wettest January on record pushed river banks to breaking point. There is now concern that the unrelenting bad weather could be severe enough to dent Britain's economic recovery. Phil Tyson from ICAP. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PHIL TYSON, HEAD OF STRATEGY FOR INTEREST RATE PRODUCTS, ICAP "There is a risk that the poor weather is going to impact activity as we've seen in the US. We've seen a distinct slowdown in the US data since the backend of last year, just given the the extreme weather over there. And I think we've had this very strong run of data in the UK, and I think from the markets perspective, they will be looking for any sign of weakness in the data." The last few years have shown how easily the economy's fortunes can be swayed by bad weather. The economy shrank 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 as the result of a harsh winter. Retail analyst Richard Perks of Mintel. (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) RETAIL ANALYST, RICHARD PERKS, SAYING: "It won't have a long term impact, I mean that much is clear. But there is no doubt that it does have a short term impact. You can see from retail sales data last year that we had a very good summer. And we had a very bad spring, all on the back of the weather. So it does have an impact but it doesn't affect the long term trends in spending." With more flood warnings in place, the extent of the damage is yet to be fully assessed. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says transport, farming and other businesses will suffer. And insurance experts warn the costs could reach one billion pounds, with a risk that premiums could go up to cover the rise in payouts. Offices, shops and factories will undoubtedly be hit. But the clouds may have a silver lining. The fall in activity will likely be reversed as companies make up for lost time and people begin to repair their homes.