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Looking back at the Towyn floods of February 1990


ARCHIVE: Towyn floods, the damage

By Kath Evans
Kath, producer for BBC Local North West Wales, was editor on the Abergele Visitor newspaper when Towyn floods struck

The first thing to remember is that not only Towyn was flooded. An area stretching from Ffynnongroyw in the east to Pensarn in the west was affected.

It was a catastrophic combination of high tides and extreme weather that broke down sea defences and caused the flooding and the subsequent evacuation of more than 2,000 people from their homes and businesses.

The disaster began on Monday, 26 February 1990, though a glance through Visitor back copies reminds me there had been a smaller breach of the sea wall causing flooding in Towyn two weeks earlier.

Woman reading Visitor newspaper
A flood victim reads The Visitor at one of the evacuation centres.

The worst affected area was the coastal stretch from Pensarn to Kinmel Bay, with its hundreds of houses and bungalows on low-lying land and thousands of caravans on holiday parks.

Parts of Rhyl were also flooded, including Garford Road and the golf course, and in Prestatyn the Central Beach area was affected, with the Nova leisure centre under six feet of water in places.

In Ffynnongroyw 20 homes were evacuated when the sea wall there also gave way.

We had a team of five reporters and one photographer out covering the disaster, while back at head office in Llandudno Junction the deputy editor and myself did our best to make sense of the overwhelming number of stories coming in.

There was the physical danger to the residents, the sheer scale of their losses (many uninsured), heroic rescues, the battle to repair the sea wall, life in the emergency shelters, then the inevitable anger and questions about how it had happened.

ARCHIVE: Towyn floods aftermath

On the brighter side we witnessed the incredible generosity of thousands of people who wanted to help, stories of families reunited, a baby born safely just hours after her mother was evacuated and a visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales.

The newspaper's offices were used as collection points for donations of blankets, clothes and towels; we set up an appeal fund with the Rotary Club; and there was a special supplement to commemorate a flood benefit gig by The Alarm.

Although the whole country's eyes were turned on north Wales at this time, there was a worry that it would soon be forgotten, so it was gratifying when, a year later, the Visitor's coverage of the floods won a UK newspaper award and provided a timely reminder that the story wasn't over.

It would take much longer for the area and the people to recover.


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