A MASS evacuation was sparked in York after flood barriers were OPENED to allow raging torrents of water swamp the city, The Sun reports. The astonishing decision was taken last night by the Environment Agency to let water flow in to the historic centre – triggering a major rescue operation.
Had the barrier became stuck in the ‘down’ position, it would have been impossible to discharge water into the River Ouse. With residents facing almost certain flooding, they were warned to move valuables to upper floors and evacuate their homes. Emergency teams are working to evacuate people from homes in York, as flooding continues to hit northern England.
Police advised between 300 and 400 people to evacuate near the River Ouse and River Foss in York, with up to 3,500 properties at risk. Hundreds of flood alerts and warnings are in place for England, Wales and Scotland, including more than 30 severe warnings – indicating danger to life.
The Prime Minister has promised to send more troops to “do whatever is needed” to help people in large swathes of northern England stricken by floods. Thousands of people are being evacuated after “unprecedented” levels of rain have caused rivers to burst their banks and left homes under water in York, Leeds and Manchester.
The Government has vowed to review flood defences as the Army was mobilised this morning to help emergency services carry out mass evacuations. David Cameron has this morning chaired a conference call of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee as ministers worked to tackle the problem. He said: “I’ve just chaired a Cobra meeting on the unprecedented flooding. Huge thanks to the emergency services and military for doing so much.
“Also my sympathy for those affected at this time of year. More troops are being deployed as part of a plan to do whatever is needed.” Earlier dramatic video showed how an elderly driver was moments from death after he was trapped in his car as it was hit by rising flood waters – when he was dramatically pulled out of the sunroof by rescuers.
Terrifying footage showed how the motorist was just seconds from drowning before an emergency crew rowed out to his stricken Land Rover. The lifesavers had desperately tried to get the driver to open the car’s windows or doors so he could escape the raging torrents. Onlookers feared the driver was about to drown as they filmed the drama in Mytholmroyd, in West Yorkshire, which could have come from a disaster movie.
With the only the car’s roof visible and only seconds to spare before the car was totally submerged the rescuers clambered on top of the vehicle. They then broke off the sunroof and managed to haul the elderly driver out of the 4×4 and save him from certain death. He was then bundled into a dinghy as taken to safety as watching crowds cheered the rescuers.
Last night tens of thousands of homes were hit by devastating floods again yesterday after nearly a month’s rain fell in a few hours. The Met Office took the rare step of issuing two red warnings, meaning people could die amid the torrential downpours across Britain. Towns were cut off, a 200-year-old former pub was swept away, 20,000 homes were without power and thousands of residents were forced to flee.
Some 400 flood alerts, including 22 at the most severe level, were in place. Mr Cameron chaired the conference call of the emergency Cobra committee today as politicians demanded more is done to help victims. Mr Cameron told the BBC: “What has happened – the level of the rivers, plus the level of rainfall has created an unprecedented effect and so some very serious flooding. The Cobra call has been important because we’ve decided to deploy more military resources, more military personnel, to help.
“But let me say the emergency services have done a fantastic job and continue to do so, and they deserve the whole nation’s thanks. But of course, at this time of year, we all feel huge sympathy for those who have been flooded and have had to leave their homes.” Details of further help from the military will become clear later today, Mr Cameron said.
He added: “As some areas of the country move from the emergency into the recovery phase, we’ll also make sure that the help we have given to Cumbria will be available to other parts of the country.” Mr Cameron said that with the prevalence of such extreme weather events on the rise, investment in flood defences would continue.
He said: “Whenever these things happen, you should look at what you’ve spent, look at what you’ve built, look at what you’re planning to spend, look at what you’re planning to build, and ask whether it’s in the right places, whether it’s enough, whether we’re doing everything we can to try and help.
“The flood barriers have made a difference – both the permanent ones and the temporary ones – but it’s clear in some cases they’ve been over-topped, they’ve been overrun, and so of course we should look again at whether there’s more we should do.” Lancashire and Yorkshire bore the brunt of the misery, triggered by downpours of 4.7ins in just a few hours on already sodden ground. The monthly average for December is 5.7ins.
Floods minister Rory Stewart declared: “What we’ve seen is rainfall levels that nobody’s ever seen before.” The ex-Waterside pub, main picture, was destroyed at Summerseat, Gtr Manchester. Part of the building, which sits on a bridge over the River Irwell, was swept away by raging waters. No one was hurt.
Lancashire fire crews were called out to 350 incidents, rescuing 50 people. Roads leading to Whalley were closed after the River Calder burst its banks sending 4ft of water through the streets, the second flood in a fortnight. Ex-hairdresser Margaret Pie, 76, fled with a soldier carrying her cockatiel Tweety Pie. She said: “At the end of the day we’re safe, and so is Tweety Pie.”
Some 20,000 homes in Rochdale lost electricity after floods hit a substation. Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, in West Yorks, were also hit with 5ft floods that threatened to wash away parked cars. A caravan park in Knaresborough, North Yorks, was submerged in water after the River Nidd burst its banks.
The 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, helped communities in Cumbria and Lancashire. Lt Col Hamish Cormack said: “The guys want to do as much as they can, they don’t care about sleep.” Motorists endured nightmare queues when the M62 was shut after a 20ft sinkhole appeared near Rochdale.
And the A66 was closed at Bowes, Co Durham, due to treacherous driving conditions. There was flooding on roads in North Wales including the A55 near Bangor. Limited rail services are being offered by Stansted Express, Chiltern Railways, Gatwick Express, Heathrow Express, Merseyrail, ScotRail, Southeastern, Southern and Thameslink, but there is little else.
Politicians demanded the Government do more to help. Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “It must look again at the swingeing cuts to departments needed to help communities back on to their feet.” Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss insisted: “We are doing everything we can to help communities recover.”
A constant stream of rain from the Atlantic is to blame for Cumbria’s persistent flooding, said the Met Office. Last night ministers pledged £40million of emergency funding to stricken communities to rebuild road and rail networks.