Uisdean MacLennan - Divisional Oifficer, Highlands and Islands Fire Brigrade
Divisional Officer, Uisdean MacLennan, Highlands and Islands Fire Brigade.
The Fire Brigade itself received the first calls to the flooding at approximately 0130 hours on Sunday the 8th of September. The rainfall was particularly notable in the Culloden, Smithton, Raigmore and Hilton areas of the city at that time.
Flooding and heavy rainfall is not an unusual circumstance but the flash floods in such a short period of time were certainly exceptional.
Initially the calls came in for floodings to houses, but then that expanded beyond that, in that we had a major lightning strike at the main power supply out at Islandbank Road. We had a number of road traffic accidents reported as well due to the poor road conditions on the night, and then some several large buildings were also affected, and in amongst all that we had a multitude of fire alarms going off due to the wet weather.
If it's flooding not due to flash floods, we can pump the house out and we can get rid of the water. But the circumstances on that night was that as soon as you started to pump out, the water was coming back in as quick. So other than to reassure people and to actually give some help and advice, in many cases that's all we could do on the night.
Over the night the Brigade was involved in a number of rescue operations where we had to carry old folk and very young, out of houses to a higher ground so they could get away from the flood water, and particularly at one hotel in the town we assisted the coastguard to remove a large number or guests via a completely flooded car park, to higher ground.
There was a considerable amount of thought went into it, in that we had to consider whether it was safer to leave the people where they were in the higher floors of the hotel, or to actually physically remove them out. It became apparent at a point fairly late on in the night and into the early morning that the safest thing to do would be to remove the people.
At about 0500 in the morning, an Incident Room was set up with the Police and the Coastguard were in attendance, along with Highland Health Board, the Highland Council, Bear Scotland, and because we were all working together we were able to share resources and at that point we discussed with the Coastguard the availability of boats and they were very much able to help us to supply these things.
A number of lessons were learnt from the incident, we'll certainly liaise very closely with the Police and the other Emergency Services to try and ensure that if it happens again we will have plans in place and be prepared albeit on the night, once things started to roll, we all worked together very effectively.