Feb 4 2014
The Prince of Wales has said the "tragedy" on the flood-hit Somerset Levels is that "nothing happened for so long".
Charles made the remarks as he met local farmers, flood victims and emergency services personnel who have been affected by the on-going disaster.
He pledged a £50,000 donation to support flood victims, with the Duke of Westminster matching the funding with an additional £50,000.
Charles' comments came amid growing anger over a perceived lack of Government action to help flood-hit areas on the Levels.
Residents have begged the Environment Agency to start dredging, with many complaining they are living in "third world" conditions with "overflowing" septic tanks.
The prince was recorded by ITV News making the comments during a reception of 80 people in the village of Stoke St Gregory.
"There's nothing like a jolly good disaster to get people to start doing something," the prince said. "The tragedy is that nothing happened for so long."
Charles braved heavy winds, flooded roads and rain to attend the 45-minute-long reception, which was said to provide a "much needed" boost to the local community.
The Somerset Levels suffered "once in 100 years" flooding in July 2012, but has endured even worse conditions from December 2013.
More than 128,000 acres have been deluged - at a huge cost to local farmers - with around 40 homes under water and 200 more cut off.
After attending the reception in Stoke St Gregory, Charles went to a pontoon at Huish Episcopi to catch a police operated boat, which is ferrying residents to the villages of Muchelney and Thorney.
Both villages have been cut off by the floods and are only accessible by boat or 4x4 vehicles.
Local farmer Mike Curtis, whose home was flooded for the second time in a year, escorted Charles to Muchelney, where he was greeted by dozens of residents.
Charles then rode to Mr Curtis' farm on a trailer with a garden bench attached, which had been decorated with flowers.
He sat on the bench in a green weatherproof jacket and black wellington boots as the trailer was pulled through flood waters by a tractor.
His reception in Somerset was in stark contrast to that of Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who drew criticism for arriving at Northmoor last week in a pair of smart city shoes.
Environment Agency boss Lord Smith has also come under fire from some in the area who believe that river dredging by the agency could have reduced the scale of the flooding.
Mr Curtis, with his wife Jenny and their two children, Rebecca, three and Tabitha, one, showed Charles their flood-damaged home and farm.
Speaking after the visit, Mr Curtis said: "He was a complete gentleman. The prince was very understanding and very sympathetic to our needs and was genuinely concerned and interested. His support will make a difference. He is very interested in farming and we talked about particular animal welfare issues that we currently face with the flood water."
He also discussed with Charles the controversial issue of dredging the rivers on the Somerset Levels.
"He was understanding the point that the rivers have not been dredged for 20 something years and that if we don't maintain it, it will deteriorate and will only get worse," Mr Curtis added.
Charles' £50,000 donation will come from The Prince's Countryside Fund, of which he is patron.
The Farming Help Partnership, made up of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Farm Community Network and the Addington Fund, has been allocated £25,000 of the emergency funding.
A further £25,000 has been given to the Somerset Community Foundation, which will provide emergency relief grants to small businesses and those affected by flooding.
The money will pay for emergency repairs, compensation for loss of income, damage to shop stock and increased petrol costs.
Father-of-two Neilsen Gillard, 44, and his father David Gillard, 69, a father of four, welcomed the prince's donation after speaking to him at the reception in Stoke St Gregory.
The Gillard family, who have been arable and sheep farming their 800 acres in Burrowbridge for the past 130 years, currently have 350 acres under "at least" two feet of water.
Neilsen Gillard said: "Every single penny will go in the right direction. £100,000 might not sound like much to some but it means a great deal and is a lot of money to us."
Libby Lisgo, mayor of Taunton Deane Borough Council said the prince's visit itself was also valuable to the community.
"He will go home today with first hand experience of the dire situation," Ms Lisgo said. "Judging from the reactions of people here, they were really pleased to welcome Prince Charles.
"I think Prince Charles has lifted morale from coming here today. He is treating it as a fact finding visit as well."
Ms Lisgo said the prince was asking questions about dredging, land management and how to retain farming land in flood-hit areas.
David Cameron's official spokesman said the prime minister had himself called the situation of Somerset residents "unacceptable".
"The Prime Minister has said that the situation people very sadly have found themselves in is a desperate one, it's an unacceptable one, and that's why it's so important that we do everything that we can to help them," he said.
Following the prince's visit, Avon and Somerset Police announced further pumps had been deployed to the Levels to help drain water.
There are now 11 pumps installed across the area, with two more held in reserve. The three new pumps have been installed at Fordgate and Moorland.
"This remains the biggest pumping operation the country has ever seen," the force spokesman said.
"Nearly 70 pumps are working round the clock, draining an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of water - equivalent to 600 Olympic swimming pools - off the Levels every day."