Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Wraysbury - Guardian Report.

This is From The Guardian this morning;

The ramshackle, make-do-and-mend nature of flood rescue efforts in the Thames-side village of Wraysbury became apparent when a distinctive yellow amphibian tourist boat was halted by a cry for help from an inundated house.

Suddenly the team on board realised there was no dinghy in which they could go and investigate.
It fell to the only person actually wearing waders, an intrepid Sky News cameraman, to head out, leaving the remainder of the impromptu rescue squad – the owner of Windsor Duck Boat Tours and his driver, the local deputy mayor, the rest of the Sky crew and the Guardian – to hope for the best.
Luckily, the shout signalled no distress and the woman concerned was happy to remain in her home.
But assistance was needed further down Hythe End Road, a pretty cul-de-sac in the Berkshire village transformed by floods into a canal. Neighbours were worried about 88-year-old Val Shiner in case power supplies failed, leaving her without heating overnight.
Fortunately they did have a canoe and Shiner was deposited, delighted and understandably puzzled, into the vast, canary yellow tourist vehicle.
It was, Shiner said, the worst she had witnessed since the famous 1947 Thames flood.
"I didn't want to go. It was my neighbours who told me I should. I was just thinking, why let all that food spoil?"

Such near-farcical scenes illustrate what some local people view as a considerably more serious point: why, when Wraysbury was at imminent risk of severe flooding for several days, was professional help so apparently thin on the ground?

On Monday there were 14 severe flood warnings, a level indicating a possible threat to life, in place along a fairly small stretch of the Thames to the west of London.
But some places in this part of Berkshire were more fortunate than others in getting help.
The flooded edge of the main road between Windsor and Egham in Surrey was choked with fire crews, army Land Rovers and other official 4x4s, as flooded-out residents were transported, swiftly and efficiently, across the water to hotels or friends.

Graham Atkin, 64, who retired as a teacher at Christmas and has been battling floods ever since, was grateful to be rescued by fire crews from his home. "Last night it just started pouring in, pouring through the patio doors. It's frightening. It's at least four foot high in the garden. I moved what I could upstairs but I put in a new kitchen and wood floors only last year."

But back in Wraysbury it was a different story. At around the same time, one of the village's main volunteer flood wardens, Su Burrows, had been fighting the currents in deep floodwaters, helping to get her neighbours out of their homes. In all, volunteers helped get more than 30 people to safety.
"We had to go, without fire and rescue, chest deep, putting our own lives at risk," said Burrows, in everyday life an IT consultant, her voice shaking with emotion. "We evacuated a three-year-old this morning. We're using any boats people will lend us. I haven't seen my house since 7am and it's probably under water. It was about two inches off then."

It didn't take long for Burrows to become angry: "The main people doing this are volunteers. We're struggling. We feel on our own. We feel sacrificed, isolated, forgotten. It took 40 minutes for the police to arrive from a 999 call. I don't want to get at the police, it's who is directing them. Who's telling them where they need to be?"

She argued that the tide of blame should lap up against the door of Number 10, saying: "David Cameron – where are you? Get your waders on and get down here. I don't believe he knows how serious this is. I appreciate he has to manage these Cobra meetings and everything else. But the Environment Agency haven't got a clue."

Police and fire crews did arrive during the afternoon, but other locals expressed the strong belief this only happened after Burrows expressed similar views in a tearful interview with a television news crew.

However, Andrew Davies, the chairman of Wraysbury's parish council, said some of those who left homes in the village did so because the floods meant sewage systems failed, or they feared power supplies would be cut. More than 30 people had been evacuated, he said, many going initially to the requisitioned primary school hall where he was based. He said: "Some people choose to stay at home and tough it out. Others just go to friends and family."

Water levels were more than 1.2m above the normal, Davies said, and were not expected to recede for at least a week – and that was if the strong rains stop. "Every time there's more rain it takes another few days for the water to run down the river to us, so we never quite know what's going to happen."Davies was less critical of emergency services, saying only that Wraysbury had become "very good at organising things ourselves". However, he condemned the Environment Agency for ending dredging in the local stretch of the Thames, and for delays to a wider flood release scheme for the river.

Neverthless, the bulk of remaining rescue efforts still fell to local people and the Windsor amphibious boat, loaned by its owner, Graham Lumley.

"We only started the business in November, and by December the river was too fast for us to operate the boat," he said.
"I thought we might as well put it to use."
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop
Home:     helpmesortoutstpeters.blogspot.com
Contact:  neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail.com


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