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Last Updated: Friday, 27 July 2007, 05:25 GMT 06:25 UK
After the floods Hull is back in business
By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News, Hull

White goods line the streets of Hull
Fridges, freezers and washing machines will need replacing
A month after large parts of the north of England were devastated by floods, there is no room at the inn.

Many of the rooms have been taken by people whose houses were wrecked by the floods, explains the receptionist at the Holiday Inn Hull Marina.

"You'd be lucky to find a room within a 50-mile radius," agrees his colleague at a nearby Travelodge as he hands over a set of keys to a group of builders, here to sort out the mess.

Surveying the devastated shell of a terraced house in Hessle, one of the city's worst hit areas, local builder Bill Hanson is philosophical.

"It's not the ideal way of getting work," he says. "But it's got to be done by somebody."

Slow process

Mr Hanson and his colleague Rob Gardiner, both of Laurhan Building & Joinery Services, are hard at work, gutting a house in Princes Avenue, a narrow road of semis just off one of Hessle's shopping streets.

Paul Brannon, Dennis Cowen Carpets
People realise that 'crikey, all the carpet shops in Hull are going to be swamped', so they're placing orders before the flood work comes in
Paul Brannon, Dennis Cowen Carpets

Theirs is one of dozens of builders' trucks lining the streets of Hull these days, amidst skips filled to the brim with everything from rubble and floorboards to fridges and televisions.

In amongst all of this is a scattering of caravans that are expected to house families for months to come.

Everyone knows there is no quick fix, explains Mr Hanson, having just ripped out the kitchen and chipped off the plaster, lifted the floorboards and pulled out the wiring.

Now the house must be left for weeks, if not months, before any more work can be done.

It is clear that there will be plenty of work for the building trade well into 2008 and beyond.

"It is almost like building a new house," explains Frank Sciabica who has come up from Essex to help with the flood damage restoration in the region.

"You can't put carpets into a property that hasn't been dried out and decorated."

Brisk retailing

Around the corner from Princes Avenue, Paul Brannon, a salesman at Dennis Cowen Carpets, is run off his feet.

Dixon manager
We've picked up an awful lot of business from flood-damaged engines
Car dealer Nigel Demaline

July has been very busy," he says.

"But the work's got to be done. There are a lot of elderly people on their own, sat in their home with the wet carpets down."

Most of the customers coming in are asking for quotes to send to the insurers, or to compare with the insurance companies' valuations, Mr Brannon explains.

And then there are those eager to beat the anticipated rush.

"Yesterday, I took a month's worth of orders in a morning," Mr Brannon says. "And it wasn't a lot of flood work.

"People realise that 'crikey, all the carpet shops in Hull are going to be swamped', so they're placing orders before the flood work comes in."

Shopping lists

There seems to be a natural order to Hull's embryonic shopping spree, which is set to balloon once the city's revival gathers pace.

Caravans and builders' trucks line the streets of Hull
Caravans and builders' trucks line the streets of Hull

First things first, explains Mr Brannon.

"You can't buy wellington boots in Hull for love nor money, and try to get a caravan? You can't get them either."

Local car dealers also report that business is brisk, as people come in to replace flood-damaged cars that have been written off, or to have them repaired.

"We've picked up an awful lot of business from flood-damaged engines," says Nigel Demaline, general manager of a cluster of car dealerships selling Nissan, Vauxhall, Renault and Citroen.

"We've had some major, major work."

Then, once the absolute necessities have been acquired, people soon start buying anything that goes into comfort areas - such as televisions and stereos.

And of course, adds Mr Brannon, all the white goods will need to be replaced.

"Washing machines, fridges. Things that sit on the floor."

Decorative items, such as flowers and plants, come low on the flood victims' shopping lists.

In the florist's shop window, down the road from the carpet shop, the sale signs loom large.

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