Flood clean-up amid controversy

HOUSEHOLDERS and businesspeople were counting the cost of more flooding this week following torrential rain on Monday, amid controversy that the Centre Vale Park flood defences were not switched on and no flood warning was sounded.

Residents who found surface water from roads or, in the case of Commercial Street area residents, overflowing from the Rochdale Canal, making its way into their homes were angry that no warning had been given.

Homes were flooded on Back Commercial Street, Todmorden, after water flowed from the canal and failed to escape into the river through a new pipe installed by the Environment Agency.

But it was the lack of warning that disappointed Ian Perrow the most.

"We watched the water burst over the top on the canal overflow and flood the road. After the last big flood we had a pump installed in the cellar to pump the water out but it was a bit touch and go as to whether we got it going in time," said Ian, a resident of Back Commercial Street for nine years.

"But we didn't get any warning. We're supposed to get text messages and phone messages and, of course the siren, which is just outside here; but we didn't get anything.

"I watched the water burst over and I rang the Environment Agency and the emergency services to ask them to sound the alarm but no-one did. I cannot believe I rang five people but no-one helped us.

"The fire brigade did turn up and they pumped the water into the river; if they hadn't we would have been flooded in the lounge as well."

The cellar of Ian's house was flooded but their pump just kept ahead of the task but one of his neighbours was not so lucky when water flooded her front room.

Helen Ashton, administrator at Mardan Products Limited of Back Commercial Street, said their sandbags had kept out the worst of the water but they had closed early on Monday.

An Environment Agency spokesman said the siren had not sounded because there had not been a forecast on the system that the river would burst its banks; and the river had not burst its banks.

"The water that flooded people's homes was surface water from the roads and drains and the canal but not the river.

"We have a trigger point when we sound the alarm and that point wasn't reached.

"We were within inches of reaching the decision to send out those warnings but in the end we didn't activate them."

Residents in Burnley Road who battled in vain to keep flood water from entering their homes were angry that the Centre Vale Park floodworks had not been used.

Mark Anderton said his mother Shirley's home had three to four inches of floodwater in and he was angry that no-one had taken responsibility for setting the pumps running.

Mark said that even if surface water on roads was the immediate cause of the problem pumping some out of the river into the park would lower the water level in the river and give the drains a chance to empty.

Todmorden Town Coun Philip Walters said he had received many calls from residents asking why the pumps were not switched on and was angry with the EA's response. He questioned whether the money spent on the scheme and disruption it caused was worth it.

An Environment Agency spokesman had said on Monday that the river had not reached the height necessary for the flood defences to work.

"The water on Burnley Road is there because of the drains; it's a drainage issue. The river has to reach a certain level for us to use the park and it hasn't done that. The system is gravity fed and we haven't reached the point when we can use the park," said the spokesman.

Another town councillor Abid Hussain said businesses along Halifax Road in Todmorden were also affected with water coming up through the cellar at Hussain Brothers' shop.

Co-owner of the shop, Coun Hussain said Calderdale Council had arrived with sandbags just in time as water was entering the shop from the flooded road. He thanked the council for the sandbags.

"The drains cannot cope with any more water. This is the fifth time we've been flooded in the time that I've been here. Now its stopped raining its easing off a bit," he said.

Walsden residents also battled with water yet again - and some have developed techniques for staving off some of the damage.

Charles Reid and his partner Hannah Harrison, of Rochdale Road, Walsden have been flooded four times in the last two years so they are getting into a routine when trying to save their kitchen, which is in the cellar. With all the rain they have been watching the rising water in the canal and river but this time it came up through the drains.

"We were badly affected in the summer of 2006 so we didn't want to lose the cooker and washing machine again. We'd already put the cooker on blocks and I came down here, switched off the power, and raised the washing machine up," said Charles, who waded through water three-and-a-half feet deep to save the items in their kitchen.

"We've had a wall built at the front of the house but it didn't stop it coming up through the drains."

Hannah said that although it was not as bad as last time there was a smell of damp throughout the house.

Neighbours Jason Blackburn, Abbi Fielden and her daughter Daisy, were also flooded. Jason had planned to install a kitchen in the cellar but all the cabinets will now have to be thrown away.

"It ripped up the tarmac on the drive and water was in the garage and cellar. We'd put a wall up at the front of the house but it came through the drains: we were fighting a losing battle," said Jason, as he cleared up the mess in the garage.

A Land Rover which tried to drive out into Rochdale Road from Clough Mill was submerged up to the windscreen but water stayed out of residents' homes. Mike Joyce said that a team of neighbours had afterwards cleared out debris from the damaged culvert.

"We all co-ordinate well together on this now. If the bodies who will be dealing with it had been half as co-ordinated as us work would have been started sooner," he said. It is still expected that work to repair the culvert, damaged in 2006, will begin on Monday if electricity cable work has been completed in time.

The Environment Agency reported that parts of the Yorkshire region received about 50 mm of rainfall in 24 hours on Monday. Flooding on the road at Walsden and in the Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd areas closed the routes to traffic, re-opening again around 5.30 pm that night and it was Tuesday morning before buses began running to timetable again.

The broken culvert at Walsden had quickly flooded the main Caldervale rail line on Monday but services were running normally again from first thing on Tuesday morning.

Schoolchildren had been sent home from some schools on Monday, returning the following day but Walsden Junior School was still closed yesterday after the school's cellar was flooded and the boiler put out of action.

The widespread problems on Monday meant a busy day for firecrew at Todmorden Fire Station. From mid to late morning they were called in to help residents in Commercial Street pump out water and in the afternoon firefighters successfully battled rising water in the cellar at Calderbank House care home at Shaw Wood Road, Todmorden.

Crew manager John Davies said the cellar was filling with water, threatening the home's electric boiler, but firefighters successfully ensured that the home's power and heating remained on and residents were able to stay in their home.

John said it was hard seeing so many people affected by the damage. The crews had to deal with the most needy cases but felt for everyone who had been affected.

Homes in several parts of the valley were also affected by the sheer amounts of water tumbling down steep hillsides.