Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Dredging at flood-hit Cumbria port begins

Destroyed Northside Bridge
Commuters were cut off after roads and bridges collapsed in Workington

Marine engineers have begun a £1m clean-up operation at a flood-hit port in Cumbria blocked by thousands of tonnes of debris.

Tonnes of rocks, trees and silt were flushed into the Port of Workington in the devastating floods last month.

The estimated amount of debris is 60,000 cubic metres - the equivalent of 24 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Specialist dredger the Manu Pekka, from Calais, has begun the process which is expected to last a month.

The debris is to be deposited in two designated areas in deeper waters further out at sea.

The port will remain open while the dredging takes place. It has been working at 70% capacity since the floods.

'Volume unimaginable'

Pilots have been guiding vessels in and out of the port by timing their journeys at high tides.

Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council's cabinet member responsible for economic development, said: "The dredgers are working flat out over the Christmas break to get the port cleaned up as soon as possible.

"The sheer volume of material flushed out by the floods is almost unimaginable.

"When you see the size of some of the boulders that have just been picked up by the water and thrown into the port, it really puts into perspective the power of mother nature."

An emergency dredging licence was issued by the Marine Fisheries Agency after talks with the Environment Agency and Natural England.

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