Friday, November 20, 2009

Torrential rains and flooding rivers turn British town into an island

Martin Wainwright in the Guardian (UK): The twin rivers that bring thousands of tourists to Cockermouth turned on the town after the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in Britain, driving 250 people out of their homes. Torrents flung cars across the picturesque centre, sweeping through Wordsworth's birthplace and ransacking one of the largest concentrations of small, independent shops in the north.

"See that oven," said Keith Fair, who opened an upmarket kitchen shop in Market Square two years ago. "That was in the window last night. Now it's on its side, halfway out of the back door."

"We were lucky – sort of," says his fitter Jim Woodford, a burly six-footer who had to cling to railings before flinging himself on the rescue boat. He points at the broken roof of a four-storey Georgian building. "The RAF's Sea King was up there this morning, winching out a group of people in their 70s and 80s."

Like many in Cockermouth, the pensioners had refused to believe that their cosy homes, painted in seaside pastel and newly strung with Christmas lights, might be death traps if water inundated the ground floors. The town has had three floods in the last 10 years and hosted an Environment Agency forum on six defence options only last month.

"But there's been nothing remotely like this," said Jeremy Petman, head brewer at Jennings, whose riverside malt store was awash with two waterlogged skips of spent hops. "This was a different scale. There'll be no brewing now for a long time."…

The church in Cockermouth in dryer times, shot by im Herrick, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

No comments: