Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

'The mess will last at least until Christmas'

Fireman in flood water
A fireman wades through flood waters after torrential rains hit Cumbria

Torrential rain has brought unprecedented flooding to parts of Cumbria, with at least 200 people rescued from their homes and many more hit by power cuts.

As residents wait for the flood waters to recede, there is uncertainty for some about just how long it will be before they are able to return to their homes. BBC reporters have been visiting the affected areas.


An eerie silence hangs over Workington. Thursday night's floods have brought this west Cumbrian town to a standstill.

Two bridges - one of them carrying a main road - have been swept away. Police searching for a colleague washed from one of the bridges have found a body.

Stunned locals have been surveying the wreckage, unable to believe the evidence before their eyes. One said that in 58 years of living here she had never seen anything like it.

Another recounted hearing a loud thump in the night - an ominous noise she now knows was the road bridge crumbling.

The River Derwent, which runs through Workington, is usually a scenic source of pride for people here. Today it is a muddy brown surge, boiling at the surface, tearing up anything in its way.

People here count themselves lucky that only a few properties have been flooded. Upriver in Cockermouth it's family homes that have borne the brunt, just weeks before Christmas.

Everyone now wants this west Cumbrian nightmare to be over.


The Dragley Beck has burst its banks and flooded much of south Ulverston. Water from the beck has engulfed Steel Street and a large section of North Lonsdale Road. Water is above knee level and the roads have been closed.

Resident sweeps water
A resident sweeps water from his home

Most of the children and elderly people in this area were evacuated overnight, but there are still homeowners here standing in their front doors, behind sandbags which failed to stop the water invading their homes.

Some people are hanging out of their upstairs windows, chatting to their neighbours on either side. For many, all they can do is wait for the flood waters to recede.

Walter Mein's home on North Lonsdale Road is under 8in (20cm) of water. "I have been up all night bailing water from the house, but it makes no odds. The water can't be pumped out because there's nowhere for it to go. We will just have to see what happens at high tide."

There has been some frustration among local people about the availability of sandbags. A limit of six sandbags per home has been in place since Thursday morning.


The water level in houses in the centre of town has risen as high as 4ft (1.2m). Things are a little calmer than they were because the rain has stopped for the moment, but there's debris and mud on the roads.

Team rescue elderly woman in Keswick
Dozens spent the night in rescue centres in Cumbria

In people's houses there is mud all over the floors, from where the River Greta has come in. Because of the floods in 2005 people were much better prepared and had moved their possessions on to work surfaces or upstairs. It's thought that more than 100 homes were affected.

A lot of people who were removed from their homes and went to hotels are now being told they might go into emergency accommodation in holiday cottages.

They're waiting to find out what's going to happen because some of their houses might not be ready for months.

It's not just water, it's sewage as well which has been spilling into their homes.


South of the Lake District's highest mountains the river never quite reached the dangerous levels seen at Cockermouth and Keswick.

Lake Windermere floods onto a road
Windermere rose far above its normal level

But the roads are still covered in rubble and often impassable - a half-hour journey took 90 minutes.

In Ambleside, Burneside and Kendal, some people are clearing out their houses but the mess and the smell will last at least until Christmas.

In 20 years as a reporter in this area I have covered floods nearly as bad, but not as widespread. And the quantity of rainfall is only a little more than that which swamped the Lake District this time last year.

It's getting dreadfully regular.


Cockermouth High Street looks more like a rapidly flowing river at the moment.

Shops that had just done up their fronts for Christmas are now only accessible by boat.

The RNLI, the fire service, mountain rescue and the police are all here working together to try to evacuate people from their houses.

Overhead, there's a helicopter from the RAF taking people off the roofs of their houses and from windows.

It looks very much like a disaster zone and it's feared that the river levels could rise further.

Print Sponsor


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific