Freak floods hit England
Scores rescued in Lake District after record rainfall
COCKERMOUTH: Military helicopters winched dozens of people to safety and emergency workers in inflatable boats rescued scores more as floods yesterday swamped northern England’s picturesque Lake District. One police officer died after a bridge was swept away by the surging waters.
British soldiers yesterday conducted house-to-house searches for those trapped by floods as deep as 2.5m. Troops also dropped down on lines from air force helicopters, breaking through rooftops to pluck people to safety.
Emergency services said more than 200 people were rescued in the hardest-hit town, Cocker mouth. At least 960 homes were flooded after a day of unprecedented rain, police in the northern region of Cumbria said.
Heavy rain and gales also brought widespread flooding to Ireland, as more than 1m of water shut down the centre of the country’s second-largest city, Cork, and more than a dozen towns and villages.
Cocker mouth, a market town 530km northwest of London, lies at the junction of the Cocker and Derwent rivers and is known for being the birth- place of poet William Wordsworth.
“It has devastated the town,” said Michael Dunn, manager of the Bitter End pub in Cockermouth. “There are a lot of properties in Main Street, private shops, that have had their windows smashed in by the force of the water and by debris in the water.
“There were cars floating down the street. It will be a long time before Cocker mouth recovers from this.”
The rain stopped and floodwaters began to ease yesterday, giving rescuers a chance to reach trapped people by boat. Debris swirled around the boats as they pulled people to safety.
Forecasters said the rainfall was unprecedented. The Environment Agency recorded 314.4mm of rain in 24 hours in one spot – one of the wettest days ever recorded in England.
“It looks like a very historical event,” said Julian Mayes, a forecaster with MeteoGroup UK.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn told the BBC that flood defences were meant to withstand a one-in-100-years flood – but could not cope with the volume of water.
“What we dealt with was probably more like one-in-a-1000, so even the very best defences, if you have such quantities of rain in such a short space of time, can be over-topped,” Benn said.
Police urged people not to travel, as many roads were impassible. Two bridges collapsed in the town of Workington, including a main one over the River Derwent. Cumbria Police said Constable Bill Barker, 45, was swept into the water as he stood on the bridge. The force said yesterday that rescuers searching for him had found a body. – Sapa-AP