DOCTORS and charity workers delivering aid have described the impact of the devastation brought on by Storm Desmond in Cumbria.
More than a thousand residents had to be evacuated from their homes over the weekend with heavy rain leaving tens of thousands of homes without power and hundreds of homes flooded.
Prime Minister David Cameron visited Carlisle, in Cumbria, where he viewed a flooded home and met soldiers who helped evacuate residents. He said on Monday (7) the country’s flood defences would have to be reviewed.
“It’s an absolutely horrific thing to happen and for some of these people it’s not the first time it’s happened,” Cameron said, adding that the Environment Agency would study how to improve flood barriers.
“We will ask all those questions because people want to live free from the fear of being flooded. We need to make sure they get all the support they need.”
Dr Suresh Rao, an orthopaedic consultant at North Cumbria Hospitals Universities trust spoke of the impact of the floods on the hospital.
“We’ve had a few cancellation of appointments and staff haven’t come in, so quite a few things have not materialised for the patients.”
“There’s no power and the IT and email systems shut-down for a couple of hours. We’ve had to cancel a lot of appointments. Many people are either stuck at home or traffic - so there’s been major disruptions. All of us are stretched over the limit.
“We were stuck before with other issues, with regards to equipment and staff, so this has probably come at the worst time.”
Aid groups helping residents on the ground with food, clothing and support include the Al-Imdaad Foundation UK from Blackburn and Khalsa Aid charity based in Slough. Both groups also helped people who were affected by the floods in Somerset last year.
Abdussamad Mulla, Country Director of Al-Imdaad Foundation UK told Eastern Eye: “Our response team left for Cumbria after hearing of the devastating news of Storm Desmond. Our teams took with us emergency kits including flasks, candles, water and 500 sandwiches.
“Over 12,600 had lost power with over 20 schools closed, we helped out alongside the rescue services and delivered aid in Keswick, Cockermouth and Carlisle. We are now putting a action plan together with 50 of our volunteers to help with the aftermath clean-up operations in Cumbria.”
He said residents in the area were left devastated by what had happened to their homes.
“The residents were all preparing for Christmas and for all that to have gone to waste is quite sad for them.”
The foundation, which works over 70 countries, and focuses mainly on international disaster relief, said it was important they helped out in a disaster “at home”.
“These are our neighbors, it is our country. We are a British registered charity and anybody that’s in need regardless of race, religion, creed or culture, we are there to help. We want to make sure we can help anyone in need around the world with this being at our doorstep.
“What I’m trying to do now is get all the communities together to combine our efforts. Just telling them go there show your presence and just help with the clean-up if that’s the least you can do. Show them that you care.”
During the latest storm, flood barriers were over-topped by water which flooded hundreds of houses and businesses in streets nearby. The storm left tens of thousands without power, disrupted water supplies and forced the closure of a number of schools.
Of those affected was Kitty Brame who shares a house on and lives on the ground floor. She told BBC how many of her belongings have been destroyed.
She said: “All the laminate starting coming up, you can see the flood lines on the walls, all the electrics were flooded, my futon was floating. “I feel distraught. This is my home and it’s uninhabitable. We can’t live here any more. There are nine of us.”
The Met Office national weather service said a new British record had been set for rainfall over a 48-hour period, with 405 millimetres falling in 38 hours at Thirlmere in Cumbria. The 24-hour record was also broken at Honister Pass in Cumbria, where 341.4 millimetres fell. The Met Office’s chief scientist Julia Slingo told BBC radio the weather conditions were “extraordinary”.
“Is it to do with climate change? There can’t yet be a definitive answer but we know that all the evidence from fundamental physics and what we understand about our weather patterns, that there is potentially a role,” she said. One death was reported in London after an elderly man was blown into the path of a bus, police said on Saturday (5).
A body was also found in a search of the River Kent in Cumbria, police said, after reports that an elderly man had fallen into the water. The West Coast Main Line rail link from London to Glasgow has also been hit, with northbound services halting at the Scottish border due to flooding.
Environment Secretary Liz Truss said services are “unlikely to be resumed until Wednesday at the earliest”. Storm Desmond comes less than two years after flooding struck homes in the county of Somerset, western England, and in the Thames Valley, also prompting criticism of the Environment Agency and pledges of action.