The Lake District has been hit by once in 1,000 years floods

The Lake District has been hit by 'once in 1,000 years' floods

The Wainwright Society has launched an appeal to help the stricken county of Cumbria after the worst floods in living memory.

The deluge was described by one observer as ‘biblical’ and the village of Seathwaite in Borrowdale, already England’s wettest spot, suffered a month’s rain – 314mm (12½ inches) – in a 24-hour period on Thursday. Four bridges have been swept away, including the Northside Bridge in Workington, where police patrolman Bill Barker lost his life after being in the flood water.

Moving around the county is still difficult, with bridges closed in many areas as civil and structural engineers begin the task of checking 1,800 of them across the district.

The Association of British Insurers has estimated the costs of the floods as £100m. 18 schools are closed today and transport across the Lake District and beyond has been severely disrupted, though most roads are now passable.

Residents and business owners in Cockermouth, one of the worst affected towns, will today be allowed back into their properties once utility officers and structural engineers have made sure they are safe.

Wainwright: would have been moved to tears

Wainwright: 'would have been moved to tears'

The Wainwright Society, which aims to keep alive the spirit of Alfred Wainwright, the celebrated chronicler of the Lakeland fells, launched the appeal today. Chairman Eric Robson said: “Cumbria and Wainwright are inextricably linked. That’s a fact.

“I’m reluctant to speculate about what AW felt about things like statues and memorials. But what I’m absolutely certain about is that Wainwright would have been moved to tears by the plight of so many parts of his adopted county following the disastrous floods.

“The society committee has decided to have a special fundraising effort to give something back to the place that was at the heart of Wainwright’s work.

“We’re going to wait to see where the money you donate can be best spent but it will definitely be used to help relieve some of the effects of the floods.”

Details of how to donate to the fund are on the Wainwright Society website.

Cumbria’s chief constable Craig Mackey has meanwhile paid tribute to the efforts of the many volunteer teams, including mountain rescue teams, that helped during the floods.

He said: “I am touched by the real sense of community spirit that has been shown during this difficult time in Cumbria – which has seemed to spread across the UK. We have had an incredible amount of support offered to us by volunteers and partners from around the country, and I have no doubt that together, we’ll be able to rebuild our communities and steadily restore a degree of normality for the people of Cumbria.”

A spokesperson for Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team said: “It rained, like it has never rained before. Many people woke up to extensive flooding. Homes and businesses were flooded, cars washed away, boats sank and many people stranded.

“The local ambulance station was completely flooded. Ambulance, police and fire service all spent the day operating from our base, with four-wheel-drive support being provided to the police and ambulance, along with swiftwater rescue backup to police officers out and about.

“People were rescued from flooded vehicles, various care workers were transported to visit vulnerable people in the community and our base was used by Environment Agency and council employees who were working on limiting the damage, trying to clear drains and providing sandbags.

“We also became an information point for those trying to get in or out of the ‘New Island Republic of Ambleside’.

One of the team’s vehicles was also caught up in an incident. “Unfortunately one of our vehicles was badly damaged when part of a road collapsed,” the spokesperson said. “Luckily, the occupants were OK, with the vehicle narrowly avoiding falling into deep water.”

Cockermouth MRT, at the heart of where the worst flooding has occurred, rescued more than 200 people. The team also brought some well needed cheer to the town by setting up a Christmas tree outside its headquarters and holding an impromptu lights ceremony after the town’s official turn-on was thwarted by the floods.

Team leader Mike Park told the Times & Star newspaper: “We have been through a fair bit the last three days. It has been a humbling experience. It’s our town, our homes and our businesses that are affected. At times it has been upsetting.

“It has been an emotional 72 hours. The team has been involved from the start. There have been some exciting times and quiet times. It’s our town and it’s in a mess. Cockermouth is a strong town and will pull together and sort itself out. I can’t thank the team and other agencies enough. I am so proud of them all.”

Both Prime Minister Gordon Brown and local-government minister Rosie Winterton have visited the area to provide support and pledge £1m-worth of financial help to the district.

  • The inquest into the death of PC Bill Barker was due to be opened this morning by the North and West Cumbrian Coroner, David Roberts at Whitehaven Magistrates Court.

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