Clean-up starts after North Yorkshire flooding

Emergency services wade across to an elderly care home where residents have been stranded by flood waters

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Clean-up operations are under way in North Yorkshire after the county's flood defences were tested to the limit by rising rivers.

In York properties flooded when the Ouse reached a near-record level of 5.07m (16ft 8ins) on Thursday morning.

Thousands of sandbags were deployed by the army and local authorities and rescuers helped stranded residents.

A 40-mile stretch of the A1 northbound, closed after it was flooded on Tuesday, has reopened. One lane remains closed.

The Highways Agency said water was still being pumped from the other lane.

Yorkshire Water said the level of the River Ouse in York had stabilised and levels were expected to fall steadily over the next few days.

At the scene: York

It is frighteningly similar to 12 years ago when York was devastated by floods. It is a bright sunny day, but instead of a street we have got a lake.

There is about 50 to 100m of water right across the road near Bishopthorpe Palace, the home of the Archbishop of York. It is passable with care, but some cars are not taking care.

There is said to be a pump on standby and if it is not here soon there could be a lot of flooded homes in Bishopthorpe.

The highest river level recorded at that location is 5.4m (17ft 9ins) in 2000, and flood defences in the city are 5.5m (18ft) high.

The Leeman Road area of York was badly affected after the sewer system was overloaded and water flowed out of the drains.

The city council's Labour leader said some of the problems could have been avoided if a £3.2m flood defence scheme had not been delayed until later this year.

James Alexander said: "The previous government gave the money [for the defences] and the new government withdrew it, saying that the council had to put in some additional money.

"We put in that additional money, and the latest I heard was that the Environment Agency were trying to use it for other areas outside of York... this wrangling means that the flood defences are not here and this has been going on for years."

'Sigh of relief'

Kelly Bailey, landlady of The Jubilee pub in Leeman Road, said the drains had flooded her cellar.

She said: "It's not far off touching the ceiling right now, it's very deep.

"I'm not going to be able to get in there for at least a day to get to any of my beer barrels, it's going to be quite expensive.

"It's just happened so quickly and it's so drastic."

Flood defences held back the River Ouse in the village of Cawood

Matt Thompson, from Yorkshire Water, said: "We're seeing river water getting into our sewer network and overloading it, which is causing it to surcharge at Leeman Road and Jubilee Street."

He said a "massive effort" was under way with engineers working alongside the fire service to pump out water and reduce the pressure on the network.

The Environment Agency said the situation appeared to be stable as the river level had peaked on Thursday morning.

Craig McGarvey, from the agency in York, said: "It's a big sigh of relief. A lot of people have been working through the night to protect their own properties.

"Unfortunately some people have been flooded and our sympathies are with them."

Town divided

The agency said it was "operating around the clock" to clear watercourses, monitor river levels, and provide pumping equipment.

It advised people across North Yorkshire to "remain vigilant" as rivers peaked across the county.

Flood warnings

Flood defences at Leeman Road
  • River Ouse at York (Leeman Road, Skeldergate, Lower Ebor Street, Alma Terrace, River Street, St George's Field, Peckitt Street), Kelfield, Cawood, Naburn, Alcaster Malbis, Acaster Selby, Fulford, Linton Lock)
  • River Derwent at Stamford Bridge, Buttercrambe Mill
  • River Ure at Aldwark Bridge to Cuddy Shaw, Milby Island
  • River Wharfe at Ulleskelf, Ryther
  • River Swale at Kirby Wiske, Helperby, Myton on Swale

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said it had attended more than 300 incidents in less than 24 hours.

On Thursday morning, crews used a boat to transport carers to a care home on Skeldergate in York, so they could get medicine to the patients inside.

In Bishopthorpe, a village near York, the fire service set up an escape route for residents stranded in a flooded caravan park on Ferry Lane.

In the village of Cawood, 8m-high (26ft) defences just managed to hold back the River Ouse after the Army bolstered them with 4,000 sandbags.

Tadcaster was still divided in two on Thursday, as inspection work continued on a bridge in the town.

The bridge, which carries the A659 over the River Wharfe, was closed when firefighters noticed water seeping through the structure on Wednesday.

A North Yorkshire County Council spokesperson said water levels had to fall in order for a "proper structural inspection" of the bridge to take place.

In the meantime the council is providing a free shuttle bus service to link the two sides of the town.

The transport network across North Yorkshire has been badly affected by flooding, with dozens of road closures across the county.

Police urged drivers to take "extreme care" on the roads.

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