Page last updated at 23:08 GMT, Sunday, 15 June 2008 00:08 UK

Survey shows flood toll a year on

By Mike Chilvers
BBC News, South Yorkshire

Catcliffe near Rotherham during the 2007 floods
Much of the village of Catcliffe was left under water for several days

The human cost of last summer's floods in South Yorkshire has been revealed in a survey of the worst-hit communities.

More than eight out of 10 of those who answered a BBC Yorkshire questionnaire said they suffered mental or physical ill health as a result of the floods.

More than a fifth (22%) were so traumatised they had taken medication.

And one in five said they were not insured for the damage caused to their property in the deluge which hit the area on 25 June 2007.

Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes as flood waters rose in towns and villages around Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

Last month, BBC Yorkshire carried out a survey in some of the worst-affected streets, selecting 2,000 addresses from areas known to have requested the most aid from the South Yorkshire Flood Disaster Relief Fund.

Of the 242 people who replied, 43% had been forced out of their homes for more than six months.

The average time away from their homes was nine months, but many more have yet to return to properties which are still awaiting repair.

Floods survey results graphic

Almost a third (32%) of those who replied to the survey said the strain of coping with the aftermath of the floods had had a detrimental effect on their family life and relationships.

The Downson family, of Hunt Lane in Bentley, near Doncaster, is still living in temporary rented accommodation because of delays to house repairs.

Mark Downson told the BBC his efforts to repair the property had been dogged by a catalogue of wrangles with his insurance company and builders.

He and his wife had suffered depression and the stress had taken its toll on his two sons, aged 15 and 10.

"They're used to having their own space and we've lived in four different houses since the floods," he said.

"I've seen their behaviour change - they've become more disobedient.

"If your home life's not as it should be everything else becomes a problem, it wears you down."

In total 84% of those who responded said their health had suffered to some degree, either mentally or physically.

Some 67% had suffered physical ill health, including chest infections, stomach upsets and skin complaints.

Meanwhile, 70% had seen a deterioration in their mental health, including 26% who said they had suffered significant problems.

Several families said their children had been left scared of heavy rain.

'Very confused'

Mother-of-four Lyndsey Hamblett, whose family spent 10 months living in a caravan, moved back into her house in Toll Bar 11 weeks ago.

She said: "When it started raining badly again the other week, my two boys were running around with school rulers measuring the depth of the water in the garden.

"They remembered how quickly the water had risen in the floods and were saying: 'We've only got two hours to get out of the house'.

"My youngest is only just three years old and when we moved back into the house she kept saying she wanted to go home to the caravan. She's very confused because she can't really remember living here."

The survey also gives an insight into the financial impact of the deluge, with 20% of those who responded saying they were not insured, leaving them with hefty bills to replace damaged possessions.

The Association of British Insurers said: "The people who do not take out home contents insurance usually make that decision because they are on a tight budget.

"They are the ones who can least afford to replace stuff once it's damaged."

The majority who were insured have also been adversely affected as insurance companies raised premiums when they renewed their policies.

Flooded street in Catcliffe, South Yorkshire
Some residents in Catcliffe said the floods brought the community together

Before the floods, Pauline Warburton, of Bickerton Road, in the Hillsborough area of Sheffield, paid 250 for a policy with flood cover, but says she has now been asked to pay up to 900 without flood cover for a new policy.

Property values in many areas also dropped immediately after the flooding.

Jon and Andrea Smith, of Wombwell near Barnsley, told the BBC survey that two neighbouring houses which had been on the market at about 180,000 before the floods were re-valued at 130,000 to 140,000 in the immediate aftermath.

Despite their problems, 48% of the survey respondents said they had received a good or very good response from their insurance companies when they submitted their claims.

Amid the trauma of the flooding, the survey reveals a significant number of people felt the emergency brought communities and even families closer together.

One third (33%) said the experiences of last June had had a positive impact.

Michael Torr, who lives in Catcliffe near Rotherham, said before the floods he had not known his next door neighbours, but now they were best friends.

Both families had been forced to live in caravans during the clear-up, and since moving back into their homes they have taken their caravans on holiday together.

Mr Torr and about 10 other neighbours set up a flood wardens scheme to alert each other to imminent flooding.

He said: "People have got more pride now in Catcliffe.

"As much as I'd like to move for fear of flooding, I wouldn't like to because of the neighbours."

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