Storm Desmond: Cumbria clean-up operation begins

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Media captionFloods leave scenes of devastation

A major clean-up operation is under way after Cumbria was battered by Storm Desmond.

Some schools are closed, and work is continuing to reopen the West Coast Main Line north of Carlisle.

About 1,500 properties remain without power, including in Glenridding and Patterdale, which have been cut off as access roads are under water.

In Kendal, a body was found by search teams looking for a man who fell into the River Kent on Sunday.

Prime Minister David Cameron paid a visit to Carlisle, during which he thanked the emergency services.

He also visited a flood-hit householder and looked at the city's flood defences, which were breached during the deluge.

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Image caption David Cameron paid a visit to Carlisle flood defences

Mr Cameron said "After every flood the thing to do is sit down, look at the money you are spending, look at what you are building, look at what you are planning to build in the future and ask, 'Is it enough?'

"And that's exactly what we will do."

The Environment Agency said more than a month's average rainfall was recorded in 24 hours on Saturday.

The organisation confirmed the 341mm (1.1ft) recorded at Honister, Keswick was a UK record.

More than £300,000 has been donated to a fund set up to help people who have fallen victim to the floods and the Cumbria Community Foundation said it was set to begin allocating grants.

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Image caption Householders in Carlisle have been taken to safety by dinghy
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Image caption Water levels in the city centre have receded from their peak on Sunday but remained high
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Image caption Sophie Thornton and Chris Fairclough with their dog, two cats and a chinchilla were rescued from their flooded home
Image caption Chris Braithwaite and Nic Hewitt were rescued by an RNLI team

Cumbria Police said, in Carlisle alone, up to 2,500 properties were flooded, with just under 5,000 homes and businesses affected across the county.

Among those fleeing the floodwaters was Nic Hewitt, who shares a first-floor flat with her partner.

She said: "We noticed the water coming down at about 10pm [on Saturday] and between midnight and 2am it kept coming and coming. There was no stopping it.

"At 4.30am we went to bed and got a couple of hours sleep. Then we were woken up by the [rescue] boat outside. The water was above the ground-floor door and about a foot off the top window. It must have been about 8ft.

"I was terrified. Everything happened so quickly. When the RNLI told us it was time to go we had to grab what clothes we could and couldn't stop for anything. It's just devastating."

Image caption Kitty Brame told BBC Cumbria she was distraught after the floods left her home uninhabitable

Kitty Brame shares a house on Warwick Road and lives on the ground floor. Many of her belongings have been destroyed.

She said: "All the laminate starting coming up, you can see the flood lines on the walls, all the electrics were flooded, my futon was floating.

"I feel distraught. This is my home and it's uninhabitable. We can't live here any more. There are nine of us."

Danny Savage, North of England Correspondent

It's getting better in Carlisle, but it's a long way from being over. The water in the Warwick Road area of the city is receding and the perimeter of the flood zone has shrunk.

But, people are still being rescued. Lifeboat crews say these are mainly people who thought they would tough it out at home but have finally decided enough is enough. Where the water has drained away residents are now assessing the damage.

Soaking carpets are being pulled up and ruined belongings thrown away. They know what's ahead. It will take months to dry out these homes and people here are well acquainted with the long miserable experience.

Image copyright AFP
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption With floodwaters receding in Cockermouth town centre, shop owners have begun the clean-up
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Image caption Store owners and workers were confronted by mounds of damaged stock

Also affected was John Chadwick, who was rescued by dinghy.

He said: "I was evacuated as the River Caldew burst over the flood barriers. I live alone and have severe mobility problems including osteoarthritis and mild epilepsy. I just had time to grab some medication.

"I have nowhere suitable to stay as I need ground-floor accommodation with disabled access.

"Earlier this year, I got an insurance quote for my home - they wanted £80 per month. I couldn't afford that and so I have nothing insured."

Electricity Northwest said 2,657 properties remained without power in Cumbria, as floodwater was hampering access to engineers.

Network Rail said the West Coast Main Line north of Carlisle would remain closed for several days after 8ft (2.4m) of water flooded the railway.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mud and debris cover Cockermouth's streets
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Image caption "Let's all pull together and keep Cockermouth open for business," this sign reads
Image caption Shops on Cockermouth's Main Street remained closed on Monday despite the flood waters clearing

Although flood defences put in place after previous incidents were breached, the Environment Agency defended their effectiveness.

Area manager Lisa Pinney said: "We have spent £45m on flood defences in Cumbria since 2009. Those defences did an important job this weekend in giving us time to ensure we could get warnings out.

"There is no doubt the flooding would have been a lot worse if the defences hadn't been in place."

Keep up to date with the latest news with BBC Local Live: Cumbria.

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