Page last updated at 15:04 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Floods recovery 'to take years'

Chief constable Craig Mackey: "I can understand people being frustrated"

Flood victims in Cumbria have been warned it could take "years" for devastating damage across the county to be repaired.

Chief Constable Craig Mackey issued the stark prediction as 900 residents and business owners in Cockermouth were allowed back into their properties.

Cumbria County Council has said the cost of damage from the floods has run into tens of millions of pounds.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already pledged £1m to help affected areas.

During a House of Commons statement, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said there would be a ministerial meeting later to discuss what more could be done to help the victims of the "utterly devastating" event.

Mr Mackey said: "What will distinguish this from many other floodings across the country is the length of time the recovery phase will take.

Pc Bill Barker
Cumbria Police casualty bureau: 0800 0560944 or 0207 1580010
Floodline number 0845 988 1188
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"We will be working with our communities for weeks, months, and in some cases years to come.

"It is clear that this was an unprecedented event in terms of the flooding, the level of flooding.

"The particular issue which made this so different is the damage to infrastructures."

Police have set up check points on four routes into Cockermouth and there are plans to allocate a United Utilities officer and a structural engineer to each property to ensure it is safe for entry.

Many of the properties are contaminated, some walls and structures could be unstable and electricity supplies may be dangerous.

The Environment Agency said between 50mm to 100mm of rain could fall in parts of the county on Tuesday, but any flooding is not expected to be on the scale of last week.

A severe flood warning is currently in place on low lying land and roads next to the River Eamont at Eamont Bridge, Kemplay Foot, Skirsgill Lane and Southwaite Green Mill.

Thousands of people across the county are facing travel chaos with 16 bridges out of action and at least 25 roads closed.

Commuters are facing long detours to reach some towns and villages cut off by the destruction.

Engineer smashes open flood damged Cockermouth shop
Structural engineers are assessing properties for damage

Structural engineers and military experts are carrying out an urgent safety review of 1,800 bridges.

Twenty-six schools and colleges in the county are shut.

The town of Workington has been split in two after the collapse of the Northside bridge on Friday and the closure of the Calva bridge, which has been condemned and is feared to be on the brink of collapse.

People wishing to get to the village of Seaton now face a 90 mile journey instead of a trip that would normally take a few minutes.

Hundreds of people across the county have been staying with friends and relatives since the record daily rainfall of Thursday and Friday last week led to the flooding of more than 1,300 homes.

The inquest into the death of Pc Bill Barker, 44, who died after falling into the River Derwent when the Northside bridge was destroyed, is due to be opened on Monday at Whitehaven Magistrates' Court.


The Environment Minister, Hilary Benn, told the House of Commons more heavy rain is expected: From BBC Democracy Live

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