Friday, November 20, 2009
Parts of the English Lake District in the county of Cumbria have suffered severe flooding on Thursday, with forecasters predicting further rain. As of 21:09 GMT there were six severe flood warnings (the highest alert in the UK Flood Warnings system) in force in the county, with a large number of flood warnings and watches also in force across the region.
According to BBC News, the main street in the town of Cockermouth is under several feet of water, and around 200 people were being evacuated by helicopters. At least 350 homes in the Elliot Park district of Keswick are also reported to be without power.
A number of local roads are flooded (including the A6 in Kendal). The West Coast Main Line railway is also reported as subject to disruption due to flooding between Oxenholme and Carlisle. Some mainline services are terminatingat either Carlisle or Preston. Local services between Carlisle and Barrow are also reported to have delays.
Some properties in Keswick, Cockermouth and Kendal had already been evacuated under pre-existing emergency plans.
Robert Runcie, the Environment Agency‘s director of flood and coastal risk was quoted as saying: “After persistent heavy rain combined with saturated ground and full rivers across Cumbria, the decision was taken to evacuate residents in towns and villages across the Lake District, before the onset of serious flooding.”
“Since early on Thursday we have been helping emergency services coordinate community groups that are going house-to-house ensuring people were taking precautions and evacuated where necessary. These emergency plans were established following the Cumbria floods of 2005 and have worked successfully. The last thing we want is floodwater putting lives at risk.”
“We urge people to take care and check the latest flooding situation and sign up to our free flood warnings service or by calling 08459 881188.”
Earlier Cumbrian police had advised against non essential travel, and against fell-walking entirely.Chief Superintendent Kevin McGilloway of Cumbria Constabulary stating “All the agencies are working together with local people to ensure they are kept as safe as possible during the severe weather which is hitting some parts of the county. We are asking people not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary.” He also gave some advice, “Pedestrians in areas where there are floods, such as Cockermouth, Keswick, Penrith and Kendal, are being urged not to attempt to walk through flood waters. Anyone who notices blocked drains are also being urged not to put themselves at risk by attempting to unblock them. The key message is for people who are affected by the floods to be prepared, to try and protect any properties that are liable to flooding. Look out for one another including vulnerable friends and neighbours. Anyone in affected areas should ensure they carry mobile phones, torches, waterproofs and other equipment they may need and ensure they have all essential medication with them.”
In Kendal, demand for sandbags has been high. A spokesperson for South Lakeland council stated:”More than 1,000 sandbags have already been collected from our depot and we have ordered 4,000 more to meet the demand.”
The Mayor of Keswick praised efforts by those involved in the flood response. “It is all hands to the pump, really” he said. “The emergency services are well co-ordinated and have been fantastic.”