Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Rescuer's shock at Cumbria floods

Rescue boats at the entry point to evacuate people
Rescue boats at the entry point to evacuate people

An experienced lifeboat man has spoken of his shock at the ferocity of the flood waters in Cumbria which saw a town's main street turn into a river.

Paul Filby, from Criccieth RNLI in Gwynedd, described how he helped in the rescue operation in Cockermouth where streets were 8ft (2.43m) under water.

The flow of water was so strong rescuers struggled to reach those stranded he said.

He added it was the worst floods he had seen in 26 years with the RNLI.

Mr Filby, a veteran of floods in Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Sheffield, said there was "nothing to compare" to the scale of the Cumbria floods.

"Things happened so quickly," he said.

"My heart goes out to them... they'll have to live with the consequence of this event for years to come
Paul Filby, senior helmsman Criccieth Lifeboat

"People rushed to get indoors to get away from the water, and then we were rescuing them by taking a boat up the street, opening front doors if we could, and swimming in to get them.

"Otherwise we were rescuing them from upstairs windows, people were even being rescued by helicopter from the roofs of their homes."

Mr Filby said the powerful boats used by the RNLI were struggling to get up the street, such was the force and the flow of water.

"People really were caught out," he said.

Mr Filby added there were nine specialist RNLI boats involved in the rescues, along with boats from other rescue services.

In all around 300 people were rescued.

"The town itself is in a valley where two rivers come together - if you were to compare it, it's a little smaller than Bangor, about the size of Caernarfon."

He said the speed of events and the scale of the damage was incredible.

"I must admit it was frightening," he said.

"My heart goes out to them (everyone who has suffered).

"We've been there and helped out, but we can then walk away, but they'll have to live with the consequence of this event for years to come," he added.



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SEE ALSO
Cockermouth, after the flooding
23 Nov 09 |  Front Page
Cumbrian flood galleries
16 Dec 09 |  Nature
Cumbria floods: Your stories
20 Nov 09 |  UK
Floods recovery 'to take years'
23 Nov 09 |  Cumbria

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