England's worst ever rainfall causes devastating floods in Wordsworth country

The heaviest rainfall ever recorded in England has caused severe flooding in the county of Cumbria, leaving a least one person dead.

Parts of the county - which is the location of the Lake District - have seen almost 11 inches of rainfall, possibly almost 13 inches in some areas, in just two days. That is about the same amount of rain which usually falls in a month.

As a result, the rivers Derwent and Cocker burst their banks.

The worst hit areas were the towns of Cockermouth and Workington.

In Workington, the 100-year-old Northside Bridge, which spanned the River Derwent, collapsed killing a police officer, PC Bill Barker, who was directing traffic away from the bridge.

In Cockermouth - where the poet William Wordsworth was born in 1770 - two more bridges collasped, the Southwaite footbridge and Lorton Bridge.

There are also fears that the Calva footbridge, built in the 1840s, over the River Derwent in Workington could collapse at any moment after the main deck sank about a foot and a large crack appeared in the central arch.

Now experts are checking the safety of all of Cumbria's 1,800 bridges.

About 1,145 houses in the Cockermouth area and 349 around Keswick lost power overnight. Hundreds of people were airlifted to safety from their homes by RAF Sea King helicopters from RAF Spadeadham.

Yesterday, Prime MInister Gordon Brown visited the area, visiting rescued residents now staying in rescue centres. Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has also visted the area.

The Queen also sent a message of condolence, saying her "thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected and whose homes and livelihoods have been damaged."

Cumbria flooding: residents' disbelief at scale of floods

20 Nov 2009
The Telegraph

The 100-year-old Northside Bridge over the River Derwent which collapsed, killing a police officer

Residents hit by torrential flooding in the Cumbrian towns of Cockermouth and Workington have told of their disbelief at seeing the roads around their homes turned into rivers.

Cumbria Police said water levels in some parts of Cockermouth town centre were more than 2.5m (8.2ft) at the height of the floods. Around 50 people were airlifted to safety and another 150 were evacuated from their homes.

In Workington a rescue operation has been launched to find a policeman who vanished as a bridge collapsed.

Residents were being urged to check on vulnerable friends and neighbours and ensure they are equipped with torches, mobile phones, waterproofs, water, radios with batteries, medication and other essential items

About 1,145 houses in the Cockermouth area and 349 around Keswick lost power overnight, although United Utilities said later that services had been restored to 660 properties.

The RAF said in a statement released at 0200 GMT that the conditions were "atrocious" and urged people to take care.

"The situation has continued to deteriorate with people being forced to break through the rooftops of houses as they frantically seek escape from rising floodwaters," it said.

Cockermouth High Street. RAF helicopters airlifted at least 50 people from buildings in the town, where police said around 960 homes were at risk of flooding

Wing Commander Peter Lloyd said: "We are concentrating on getting people away from imminent danger and delivering them to what is comparative safety."

Southwaite footbridge in Cockermouth and nearby Lorton Bridge were destroyed in the floods, alongwith Northside Bridge in Workington, where the policeman disappeared.

Other bridges in the area have been closed amid fears that they too could collapse.

Cockermouth resident Gwenda Davies said she was staying at a friend's home and both were trapped in the upstairs of the house. She described a "raging torrent" around six feet high in the lane outside the house

John Carlin, owner of the Allerdale Court Hotel in Cockermouth, said the amount of rainfall was "staggering".

"I have lived here for 15 years and have never seen anything like it," he said.

"At two o'clock it was raining heavily, but there was nothing here. But now there is four feet of water outside my front door. The amount of rain has been staggering.

Cockermouth High Street in Cumbria

"It's desperate. The town centre is completely flooded, the only people out there at the moment are the emergency services. The water is up to the waists of the firefighters.

"We are under six inches of water ourselves but we have still got electricity and the fire service have told us they are on standby if they need to evacuate us.

"I can see still see lights on outside. Our hotel electricity is in the cellar, I have tried to seal it up but we've lost it if it fills up."

Kirsty Hutchinson, one of those carried to safety in Cockermouth, told Sky News "It's just been absolutely unbelievable. As soon as the river broke at the bottom of the road, it came up really quickly."

An RAF rescue helicopter rescues people from their homes in the centre of Cockermouth

Cockermouth resident Gwenda Davies said was staying at a friend's home and both were trapped in the upstairs of the house. She described a "raging torrent" around six feet high in the lane outside the house.

"The weather is atricious, it's absolutely pouring still," she said.

"The water is now up to the downstairs ceiling and I can hear the furniture downstairs knocking on the ceiling. "The River Cocker is apparently one of the fastest flowing in the country apparently and we certainly know it now.

Up to two months' worth of rain, 6.8in (173mm), fell overnight in the area and water levels have risen to about 8ft (almost 2.5m) in nearby Cockermouth

Councillor Bob Hardon, who lives in Workington, said two bridges in the town had collapsed.

"This is the worst weather in a long time. In 1976 I worked in the brewery in Cockermouth and we had beer barrels floating in the cellar but this is as bad as it's been for a long time," he said.

Kevin Bell, 48, is the night porter at the Washington Central Hotel in Workington around 400 yards from the flooded area.

"A cricket pitch and the old speedway track are among areas under water, which is up to four feet deep in places, somebody said," he said. "It's terrible, it shows the volume of water that went through, to knock a bridge over.

"We've had floods before but not to this degree. It's probably one of those once in 100 year events."

PC Bill Barker was killed when the Northside Bridge collapsed

The Queen's message of condolence:

I have been deeply concerned and saddened by the dreadful flooding across Britain and the devastation it has caused.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected and whose homes and livelihoods have been damaged.

“I would like to express my gratitude for the selfless efforts of the emergency services, military personnel, local authorities and volunteers who are working night and day to assist everyone in these distressing circumstances.

“They have my admiration and heartfelt thanks.”

The AA said it was "flat out" rescuing stricken cars and advised against all but essential travel.

Richard Westmoreland, the motoring organisation's water rescue technician, said: "Conditions in Cumbria have been horrendous - the worst I've seen."

Emergency rescue workers float past a 'Merry Christmas' sign as they look to rescue residents stranded by floods in Cockermouth

Firefighters and RNLI personnell rescue Pat Edwards, aged 81, from her home in the centre of Cockermouth

************************************************** ***************

Fears crucial bridge could collapse at any moment as chiefs order urgent checks on 1,800 other structures

By Daily Mail Reporter
22nd November 2009
Daily Mail

The last remaining bridge between the Cumbrian town of Workington and outlying villages could collapse at any moment due to flood damage.

Police have blocked off the road around a quarter of a mile from the structure, known locally as the Calva Bridge, which is understood to also carry power cables, as strong winds buffeted the area.

The closure of the bridge, which has dropped by a foot overnight, meant many residents from a row of terraced houses who were flooded out on Thursday can still not get to their homes.

The drama comes as an urgent investigation is underway into the safety of all 1,800 bridges in Cumbria today after record floods in the area.

Raging torrent: The bridge in Workington, known as Calva Bridge, that is in danger of collapse

Canon Bryan Rowe, of St Michael's Church in Workington, said the collapse of Northside bridge and near collapse of Calva bridge affected the whole community.

He said: 'The whole community is hurting. We are isolated. We are a long way from a motorway now. We can't even go the other side of the river.

'The sad thing is it's going to take months.'

He said his church was just 400m from the Northside bridge but to get to the other side of the river now required a detour of about 35 miles.

Andrew Butler, of Cumbria Highways, told Sky News: 'Calva Bridge is causing us great concern at the moment. We've seen deterioration overnight.'

He said a sheer crack in the central arch had grown to about 2-3ins, making the arch a 'write-off'.

And he said the bridge deck had sunk more than a foot, adding: 'We can't find out why that's happening at the moment because whatever is happening is beneath water level.

'We're doing our utmost to secure this bridge and all bridges against public access at the moment. We will continue to do that.

'People are asking is it going to collapse imminently? No-one can know that. We don't know what's underneath the waterline.'

Major Philip Curtis said three bridging specialists from the Royal Engineers were working with contractors to look at the best ways to repair the Calva Bridge.

He told Sky News: 'A lot depends on where the resources are and how quickly we can get them.

'There is not one solution, there are a number of solutions we can come up with.'

A woman battles through the driving rain in a street in Cockermouth today

The Big Clean-up: A couple move their damaged furniture out of their house in Cockermouth as they try to get things back to normal after floodwaters receded yesterday

Gordon Brown yesterday pledged an extra £1 million of Government money to help flood-hit communities during a visit to Cockermouth, where rescue workers were still making door-to-door searches.

Meanwhile in Devon, a canoeist died after being pulled from the River Dart during yesterday's stormy conditions.

People in Cumbria were advised not to return to their homes, as forecasters predicted more downpours over the coming days which could hamper the recovery effort.

And around 20,000 flood defence sandbags will be handed out to people in Cockermouth and Keswick this morning, police said.

In Cockermouth today the centre of the town was still cordoned off by police as an army of surveyors, structural engineers, utility workers and Environment Agency staff continued their work to start the clean-up.

Paul Cusack, who employs 12 staff at his travel agency, Cockermouth Travel in the town, was flooded out on Thursday.

He was able to salvage some of his computers and is moving the business to another premises in the town.

He said: 'Today should have been the Christmas lights switch on in Cockermouth.

'The feeling is a mixture of devastation and determination, to get it all put right again, people in this area are very resilient.

'The only time I have felt tearful is because of the numbers of people calling up offering to help, not just locally but nationally.'

During his two-hour visit to Cockermouth yesterday, the Prime Minister toured the centre of the town and witnessed the devastation.

The town was strewn with debris from the floods, with cars coming to rest against trees from the force of the torrents, shop windows smashed and inches of sludge and silt covering the road.

Ruined household goods are piled up as flood water recedes and the big clean up of debris and damage begins

Rescued at Last: An RSPCA officer carries a dog to safety after it had been stranded by floodwater for two days

Mr Brown pledged £1 million in extra funding, matching the money already offered by the regional development agency, saying: 'We will do everything we can to support the local community in its hour of need.

'I have met people in the centre I have just visited showing great community spirit.

'A community is a thousand acts of kindness and friendship for each other. It is making me very very proud of this community.

'The emergency services have worked brilliantly, right across the board.'

Earlier the Prime Minister had met flooded-out residents taking shelter at the Shepherd's Hotel in Cockermouth.

Ann Burns, 76, who has spent two nights at the centre, said: 'He tries, I'll give him that. We all need a bit of a lift. I'm going back to nowt.

'I was one of the first ones evacuated and taken here, I hardly know what day it is. I'm not bothered, I'm still breathing.'

Doris Studholme, 88, said: 'This is the second time I have been flooded out - in 2005 I was out for six months. This time it's hopeless. I don't know when I will get back home.

'I've lost everything again. Last time they had to carry me out, this time they came quickly and got us out before the flood.

'But I've got family and the people here could not do any more for us, they're fantastic.'

Local resident Liz Fitton is reunited with her dog, Molly, who was rescued by RSPCA officers after being stranded for two days in Cockermouth

Sylvia Mason, 51, said a prized possession, a campaign medal and testimonial presented to her son, Russell Watson, 24, from the Army after serving in Iraq, had been left at home. She said she feared it had probably washed away after flood waters deluged her house on Thursday night.

Mrs Mason said none of her other possessions mattered as much as the medal and asked the Prime Minister for help.

'He said he will try to get a replacement,' she said.

'I'm very proud of my son, as he is proud of all the soldiers. I know it sounds daft. If I can get that it doesn't matter about anything else.'

After visiting the shelter the Prime Minister went to the centre of the emergency services operations, set up at Cockermouth Fire Station.

The Fire Service, along with police, RAF, RNLI, NHS paramedics and mountain rescue personal are co-ordinating the search and clear-up operation from the station.

Mr Brown spoke to leaders of the organisations about the operation before visiting the centre of Cockermouth.

Tina Fearon, a firefighter stationed in the town, said they had taken 500 emergency calls since Thursday night and fire crews had been brought in from Barrow and Carlisle.

'We are now in the process of sweeping the town,' she said, 'Identifying areas to be checked and double-checked as some people chose to stay in their homes.'

Gordon Brown visited Cumbria on Saturday to see the damage and pay tribute to PC Bill Barker, who died when a bridge collapsed

Special high volume pumping fire engines were also being brought in from Tyne and Wear and Merseyside, to pump the water out of basements and streets and into the river, once the levels fall.

Adrian Holme, group manager for the fire service in Cumbria at Penrith said the operation was still in its 'Emergency' phase but they were hoping it would soon go to the 'Recovery' stage and the clean-up.

An army of council roadsweepers is ready to clean the sludge off the streets and a decontamination tent was set up in the centre of the town to combat sewage which may have leaked into the water.

Firemen and building surveyors are also checking on structural damage to buildings to ensure they are safe.

Glyn Vaughan, an area manager for the Environment Agency in Cumbria, said staff would be checking flood defences in the county to ensure they had not been damaged.

More than 1,300 homes were affected by the flooding and more than 1,000 homes left without power.

Some 94 people were still sheltering in reception centres.

Paul Mott, a forecaster with MeteoGroup UK, the weather division of the Press Association, said there was persistent rain yesterday afternoon, with about 20-25mm in some places.

He said today would see another 25-30mm, adding: 'It's not going to help the recovery. There will be more showers over the coming days.

Some will be quite heavy and there will be more prolonged showers on Tuesday.

'But it's not going to be nearly as heavy as Thursday - it's just going to be a very slow recovery.'

The 'Biblical' downpour over Cumbria was the highest level of rainfall measured in England since records began, with 314mm - more than one foot of rain - falling in 24 hours.

Geese walk down the high street in Cockermouth

Last edited by Blackleaf; Nov 22nd, 2009 at 11:33 AM..
Gawd. Those poor people. My sympathies to those who lost a loved one or have injured loved ones.
I hope they all have insurance

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