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UK Floods: Stories from the devastation in Cumbria

By John Harrison
BBC News

image copyrightPA

The flooding in Cumbria was indiscriminate. It hit families, pensioners, and children alike. It hit some people for the second time since 2009. In total, more than 6,000 homes were flooded across the region. The huge mop-up is now under way, even as the threat of further flooding remains.

media captionHelicopter footage reveals the scale of widespread flooding in Cumbria as flood waters reach their peak in the wake of Storm Desmond

Among the gloom and the water, stories of uplifting community spirit, of rescues and of neighbourly support have emerged. In what has been a devastating week for many people, here are some of the stories of those involved.

Flooded again

The residents of Brunton Avenue, a quiet street not far from the River Eden in Carlisle, shared the horror of Storm Desmond.

For many it was the second time they had watched their homes being submerged.

media caption'We had just sold our house'

"This is my lovely home," Sarah Betton says, wading through the water in her living room, "it will need a bit of decorating."

At its peak, the floods reached halfway up her front window.

Her new "dream" kitchen had just been finished, she says.

A wooden train track - a recent birthday present for her son - floats in a corner. He has been asking to play with it, she adds.

"There were quite a few toys and DVDs, which are all replaceable, but it is that thing of explaining to a three-year-old why he can't have his Thomas the Tank Engine DVD or his train."

media captionResidents in Brunton Avenue, Carlisle, show the BBC's Ed Thomas through their flooded homes

Further along the road, Alan Shaw picks up a Christmas bauble floating across his living room.

"Everything has gone," he says. "Just forget it. Goodnight Vienna."

"Stuff I can cope with," he says, his voice cracking, "as long as the family was all right - that was my only worry. We will get it sorted. We got it sorted last time."

Families hit

media caption'I didn't think it would be this bad'

Brothers Ben, 12, and 10-year-old Sam were among those rescued from the roof of homes in Carlisle.

"We couldn't get downstairs because the water was just so high," Ben says. "It was probably up to my head.

"We pretty much just stayed upstairs. We didn't really have anything to do until the boat came."

Sam says his family had to climb out of the bathroom window. "We had to climb down the roof and get into the boat," he adds.

Marion Riley's mother - who is in her 80s - was also forced out of her home.

Returning to the house the day after, Marion says: "I just can't believe it. You just can't believe what the water does.

"My stomach is churning and I feel absolutely horrible inside because it is the first time we have seen what flood water does to somebody's property."

media captionWhat happens when an expert assesses a flooded home?

Storm Desmond: Floods in focus

image copyrightReuters

Kindness is keeping Cumbria afloat

The homeless student

media captionBeth shows us inside her flooded home

As the water levels rose in Carlisle on Saturday night, student Beth Simpson went to the pub for dinner because she was unsure if it was safe to use her cooker.

Soon power was down, her phone signal was gone, and she was unable to contact her housemates.

The 21-year-old was rendered homeless, left only with the clothes she had gone out in.

"It was really, really scary. I didn't know how far the water had come up into my house. I didn't even know if my housemates were safe.

"People were saying, 'Come and stay at mine, I've got a spare bed or a sofa.' It was quite remarkable."

Beth and her friends returned home on Monday, picking up what belongings they could salvage.

They have now all moved out and are having to find new accommodation to complete their final year of university.

"It is just surreal. It kind of feels like an out-of-body experience."

Washed-out businesses

media captionJacinta Cooper shows the damage done to her bridal shop

Jacinta Cooper's bridal shop in Carlisle's Warwick Road - one of the worst-hit areas of the city - was badly flooded.

"These are shoes and mannequins," she says, pointing to a sodden corridor.

"These are a couple of dresses that a lady was thinking about choosing," she says, pointing to two badly-damaged dresses hanging on the wall.

"She was actually going to come back on Saturday afternoon but we had to close because of the fear of getting home.

"She didn't get the chance to choose it."

Her voice cracking with emotion, she adds: "I just do want my brides to know everything will be OK for them."

media captionFlooded farmer: 'We found one cow on a golf course'

"You can't resell it because it is all contaminated," says Billy Bone, as he piles all the food from his corner shop into a skip.

He estimates he is throwing away £45,000-£50,000 of stock.

"We are skipping it and the shelving is going, so we are just stripping it all out.

"It'll be quite a large sum of money."

The rescue teams

media captionCoxswain Gary Hampson: 'Spirits have been running high'

"Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds - you name it - hamsters, we rescued them all to be honest, as well as people," Chris Egan, from the Maryport Inshore Rescue, says.

The lifeboat team - which consists of 18 volunteer crew - was called out to Carlisle at 09:00 GMT on Sunday.

They spent 10 hours in Carlisle.

Most of the crew had already spent 16 hours helping in Cockermouth and Penrith on Saturday - working through the night and finally getting to bed at 06:00 GMT.

Some had been out on Thursday and Friday night after work. On Monday, it was back to the day job.

"There are a lot of people walking around with bags under their eyes," he adds.

Production: Dominic Bailey and Ben Fell

Related Topics

  • Floods