Page last updated at 02:18 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 03:18 UK

When rain brought death to Hull

By Adam Wild
BBC News, Hull

Adam Wild
BBC Radio Humberside's Adam Wild witnessed the rising flood waters
One year on from what, at the time, was described as the worst peacetime disaster to hit Hull, the scars, both physical and mental continue to blight the city.

While a lot has happened in the past 12 months and the world inevitably moves on, travel to countless parts of the region and the caravans and skips lining the streets bear testimony to the fact that, for many, life changed on 25 June 2007.

The national media have long since left, but for those of us who remain to cover the clear-up, the aftermath and the lessons learnt, the memories vividly live on.

Hull is my home. It is where I was born, where I went to school and where I became who I am. For that reason working as a reporter last summer with BBC Radio Humberside was perhaps for me a more deeply emotive and personal experience.

The streets where I grew up disappearing under dirty brown water; the lives of friends, family and neighbours ruined; by telling these stories, I found myself a part of them.

The story began for me at a small primary school in Anlaby reporting on flood damage.

I had been dispatched to the school at 0600 BST to tell the story of how it had managed to reopen after heavy rain had forced its closure a week or so earlier.

Flooding in Hull
A man wades down a flooded street as the waters rise in Hull

The rain was coming down by the bucket load, as it had done all night, and as I parked the mobile studio in the car park, a caretaker mischievously commented that if I left it there for too long, it may be the last I saw of it. At that point I thought he was only joking.

As I stood in one of the worst-affected classrooms, with only a handful of children's drawings clinging defiantly to the walls and the whirring of the electric dryers in the background, the head teacher and I looked out on to the playground as it slowly flooded.

As my allocated time slot on the breakfast show approached, it became clear that my story was changing.

This was not going to be an interview with the head teacher about how all their hard work had enabled the school to get back on its feet so quickly, this was a tale of impending disaster.

As soon as my live slot had passed, I was informed that the radio station had received a call from a woman in Orchard Park who had raw sewage running through her garden.

Driving through the streets on my way, the gravity of the situation was still unclear. The areas I saw were flooded, but for this to be happening right across the region was unthinkable.

It was only much later on that I learnt that by this point Humberside Fire and Rescue had already received about 3,000 calls for help.

I drove on to Newland Avenue.

The phones at the radio station had not stopped ringing as extra members of staff were diverted to field calls of panic and helplessness.
Adam Wild, BBC Radio Humberside reporter

A busy and multi-cultural shopping street had ground to a standstill as emergency work was being undertaken to desperately protect the shops.

As I stood there describing the scene on-air to our mid-morning presenter, shopkeepers and even one rather harassed looking PCSO begged to borrow my wellies.

Three large areas of the city, each worse affected than the one before, and we had not even reached the lunchtime news.

By this point we had become reliant on members of the public to tell the story. The phones at the radio station had not stopped ringing, as extra members of staff were diverted to field calls of panic and helplessness.

I was moved on to Anlaby Road where garden ponds had overflowed and there were reports of people fishing in the middle of the dual carriageway.

Having driven down this road on my way to work some hours earlier, it was clear that the situation was worsening and I remember taking a photo on my mobile phone to send to my sister; she would hardly believe what was happening to our home town.

After another live broadcast there, describing the children splashing around whilst frantic mothers battled to do up raincoats - I received a call from my editor. A man was stuck in a drain in Hessle.

A journey that would normally take little more that 10 minutes took nearly two hours as road closures and jams brought traffic to near-gridlock, all the time flood water lapping up around my bumper.

I got as close as I could to where I had been told to go, and got out to walk the rest.

The water was around thigh-high, deeper in some places, and all the time torrential rain continued.

I turned the corner into Astral Close; the small, narrow cul-de-sac was completely blocked up by emergency vehicles and from the faces of the crews, this was a very grave situation.

Astral Close in Hull
Michael Barnett was trapped for four hours in a drain before he died

A couple of other reporters were already there and we discussed what was happening and what we could see. We stood for some time and watched helplessly from a distance, while crews from the emergency services did their work.

I don't know whether it was the cold, the wet, the exhaustion or just the shock, but when the fireman came over, removed his helmet, and told me Michael Barnett had passed away, we were all numb.

It is easy to forget at times like that that you are there to do a job, but I took my lead from the other reporters and phoned the story in.

My radio equipment had stopped working but within a few minutes I was live on the radio, on my mobile phone, as sensitively as I could, describing the tragedy. As I waded back to my van, cold, wet and shaken, my phone rang again.

This time it was London, and I was to appear on BBC Radio Five Live's afternoon show. I stood there in the pouring rain for more than 45 minutes listening to coverage from Wimbledon, waiting for my slot. It was surreal.

For the following week I spent about 60 hours on the road, driving from one location to another, speaking to residents, hearing their stories, and getting them on air.

People have since asked me why I did not just stop and help, but I think in many ways we did. What happened in the region that week was shocking, unforeseen and devastating, but for many people what was most important was not being forgotten.

It was impossible for the emergency services or any other body to attend to every single person, but for people to hear on the radio that someone was there, that their story was being told and that they were not alone, then that was the best help we as a radio station could give.

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