Woman dies in floodwater as a month’s rain falls in a day and hundreds are evacuated
A WOMAN died after being swept away in floodwater as parts of northern England and the Midlands were battered by a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours, causing water to breach banks and sweep over flood defences.
Her death in the Derwent at Rowsley, near Matlock in Derbyshire, came as the Environment Agency (EA) warned people to stay away from swollen rivers, councils evacuated hundreds of houses and emergency services used boats to rescue stranded homeowners.
Dozens of people were forced to spend Thursday night in the Meadowhall shopping centre near Sheffield.
Roads around the centre had flooded after water from the Don poured over the top of defences completed last year at a cost of more than £20million. By yesterday afternoon there were six severe “danger to life” warnings in place around the Don, which also breached its banks at St Oswald’s Church at Kirk Sandall.
Last night, 116 flood warnings were in place, mostly in Yorkshire.
Boris Johnson, who visited Matlock last night to help with the clean-up operation, said the Government was putting £2.6 billion into flood defences.
“People have been moved out of their homes and probably hundreds of businesses have seen damage to their properties – we stand ready to help in any way that we can,” he added.
Allen Cowles, a councillor in Whiston, Rotherham, where residents were evacuated as the Whiston Brook burst its banks, said: “I am laying the blame squarely on the Environment Agency. They put in minimal flood defences. The flood defences have not been raised at all, they are only around 18 inches – the height of a riverbank.”
The EA insisted defences had held around Sheffield.
It said fewer than 10 properties had been affected and less than 10 people in the area had been forced to evacuate their homes.
A spokesman said: “Following any flood, we work with the Lead Local Flood Authority, whose duty is to look at the causes and seek to learn lessons.
“The flood defences in Sheffield were not breached, but we regularly monitor all flood defences as a part of our routine maintenance programme.”
Swineshaw in the Peak District recorded 4.4in of rain on Thursday – the most anywhere in England – while
parts of Sheffield experienced 3.3in. The average monthly rainfall for Yorkshire at this time of year is 3.5in.
Residents in Toll Bar, near Doncaster, described Thursday’s downpour as “almost biblical”. Kathleen Overton, a 61-year-old Post Office worker, said: “You were just looking out of your window in disbelief at how much of it was coming down. People’s cars were getting submerged, gardens were ruined. It was carnage.”
Residents on Yarborough Terrace in Doncaster, including one disabled man who was trapped in his home, were rescued by boat.
Jason Richards, a 44-year-old resident, said: “I swept it up with the broom at first, but every time I brushed it away more water just kept coming.”
In Mansfield, 35 homes were evacuated as a precaution after a mudslide, while residents in around 25 homes in Worksop were also ordered to flee.
In Lincolnshire, the River Witham had risen so much that residents said they were able to see swans swimming up to the edge of their properties.
“I didn’t realise how high the water actually was until I went out and there was a group of them right next to my wall. They were that close I could touch them,” said resident Chelsea Foster, 23.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed they rescued more than 100 stranded people on Thursday night, with around 500 calls coming in between 10pm and 4am.
Professor Hannah Cloke, a hydrologist at the University of Reading, said the floods had been caused by a “storm factory” over the Atlantic bringing torrential rain. She warned more could be on the way.
“If these atmospheric conditions don’t change, it could lead to more rain on the way,” she said. “It’s impossible to protect everyone from flooding, we will never be able to do that, so we have to stop building on flood plains.”
The weather caused train services to be cancelled and Northern Rail issued a “do not travel” warning on some routes. London North Eastern Railway (LNER) also warned of delays after the East Coast Mainline was flooded between Leeds and Doncaster.
Alex Burkill, meteorologist with the Met Office, said: “The rain is easing and moving south but obviously the impact of that will continue to be felt.”
Boris Johnson lent a hand with the clean-up operation at an opticians in Matlock, Derbyshire, last night as he visited the flood-ravaged region where the Derwent has burst its banks
Flooding around Darley Dale in Derbyshire, where buildings were cut off by the rising floodwaters yesterday. The area is close to where a woman’s body was found after she was swept away in the swollen River Derwent