Storm Christoph: Helicopter crew rescues family trapped by floods

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media captionThe family was taken to safety after being rescued by the Coastguard during the storm.

A helicopter crew had to rescue a family trapped at home by floodwater.

The two adults and a six-year-old child were up to their knees in water at their isolated property near Rossett, Wrexham, on the banks of the River Dee.

A woman living near the same river, was also rescued by a crew who paddled half a mile to the house.

A severe flood warning remains in place for north Wales after Storm Christoph, and also the whole of Wales is braced for snow and ice across the weekend.

About 80 people were evacuated from homes during flooding thought to be related to mine works in Skewen, Neath.

media captionDrone footage captures the extent of the damage the bridge over the River Clwyd

Gemma Egerton-Brooks was airlifted to safety at midnight on Thursday with husband Pete, son Alfie, two dogs and whatever they could carry.

"I watched the footage of the rescue this morning and it made me cry," she said.

"During the rescue you just think about getting out. It didn't sink in until this morning and I burst into tears."

After staying overnight at the nearby Grosvenor Hotel, the family are now waiting at Mrs Egerton-Brooks's parents until it is safe to return home and assess the damage.

"The water was knee height when we called the emergency services. By the time we left it was waist height. We don't know what we're going back to. It's heart-breaking," she said.

"The helicopter arrived at midnight because they couldn't get the rescue boat to us, it wasn't safe. It was horrible.

"I went up first, then a coastguard got my son Alfie strapped to himself, then Pete, then the dogs and a bag of clothes. It was surreal.

"I was trying to keep my six-year-old calm, while trying not to cry myself. We were all cold and wet and in shock.

"We owe our lives to HM Coastguard and we're so grateful to the hotel staff and people in the village."

image copyrightGemma Egerton-Brooks
image captionThe scene from the Egerton-Brooks family home

Meanwhile, the woman rescued by boat lives in a remote property near the River Dee, east of Wrexham Industrial Estate.

North East Wales Search and Rescue said the team paddled our rescue raft for over half a mile across the flooded river to the house.

A bridge over the River Clwyd, between Trefnant and Tremeirchion in Denbighshire, collapsed, which has added to the disruption to communities caused by the Covid pandemic.

There were two severe flood warnings in place. The one covering the Lower Dee Valley from Llangollen to Trevalyn Meadows remains in place but the one for Bangor-on-Dee has now been lifted.

The Welsh Government has promised to provide financial help to those affected by serious flooding, after people were forced to flee their homes and a major incident was declared.

It said it would work with councils to deliver £500 to £1,000 payments to affected households.

Ruthin resident Roger Connah, who suffered flood damage to his home, said: "This was avoidable. This should not have happened, and there are people responsible for these areas... we've identified this problem for years."

image captionPamela Davies said a flood plan has "broken down"

In Bangor-on-Dee, Pamela Davies said a protection plan was set up following floods in 2000, but "it's not working".

"It's broken down, because the council have cuts....they say it's cuts and everything. They're not interested at the end of the day," she said.

In a statement, Denbighshire council said: "Our thoughts are with all our residents who have been affected by the severe weather and flooding over the last 24 hours.

"In the expectation of heavy rain we checked critical culverts across the county, and made sure that as many resources as possible are available to respond to issues.

"However, we are unable to stop flooding from happening and our resources were seriously stretched as surface water created problems across the county."

Only one person attended a rest centre set up in Ruthin and no-one in St Asaph, the council said, adding: "the cause of the flooding will be subject of a thorough investigation by the Council and Natural Resources Wales".

Wrexham council and Natural Resources Wales have been asked to comment.

'Covid safety'

Photographer Ian Humphreys, from Bangor-on-Dee, told Radio Wales Breakfast the drains could not cope with the volume of water and said two main roads out of the village were closed.

"When I was advised possibly to leave, you've got to think of your own personal safety because of Covid. It's not made it easy, it's another added complication to the flooding," he said.

"It's a dreadful thing that's going on, but there's still some beauty in some of the images I've tried to take."

Christine Marston, the Conservative councillor for Tremeirchion on Denbighshire County Council, said losing the bridge had left the community feeling "shocked and saddened".

"It's heart-breaking for the local residents to see such a beautiful bridge being lost to this torrent of water that came down the River Clwyd," she said.

"The loss of this bridge will have an impact not only for locals but also the wider community, some farmers struggling to connect their livestock and their land, to the workers trying to get to work, to local residents doing their shopping and children getting to school.

"Normal routes are going to be disrupted and people will have to readjust which will have an impact on businesses and lives locally and in the wider area."

She added the diversion set up by council officers was about 10 miles long.

The council has estimated it will take 12 to 18 months to build a replacement bridge, which she said needed to be "made of natural products in keeping with our lovely natural environment".

Ms Marston said the council was supporting those affected.

"In the middle of a pandemic and the chaos of being in lockdown we have the natural force of nature that has brought on this massive storm," she said.

"That has come with an already-saturated ground with this 24 hours of rain which we've experienced has just escalated this situation. It's just awful."

'Blows out potholes'

Carolyn Thomas, deputy leader of Flintshire council, said teams worked through the night trying to repair some of the damage and cleaning up.

"A lot of the infrastructure has been impacted, the intensity of the rain just blows out potholes and gets under road surfaces, the freezing temperatures have lifted the road surfaces," she said.

"Some of the drains are really old and not built for this amount of water, we had 40mm of rain which was more intense than we expected, we can only cope with so much."

Ms Thomas said the council had a quote for a defence scheme, which would potentially cost £14m.

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