Lancashire floods latest: ‘The 999 teams were our heroes’

The clean-up operation today continues on the Fylde coast after flooding forced families to flee their homes – with more severe weather set to hit Lancashire.

By Paul Berentzen
Wednesday, 9th December 2015, 8:42 am
Flooding at St Michaels on Wyre
Flooding at St Michaels on Wyre

Emergency services hailed the ‘heroes’ who helped battle the rising water levels and keep residents safe during a time of almost unprecedented demand.

Firefighters were back in St Michaels yesterday as they resumed their efforts to pump away the water that forced more than 20 homes to be evacuated.

Residents have praised the efforts of emergency services after flood defences failed, leaving parts of the village under five feet of water.

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Julie McCord in her bedroom following the flooding in St Michaels

Lancashire Fire and Rescue spokesman John Taylor said: “The other heroes of the day were really the North West control team that took the 999 calls.

“They had an immense task on but they rose to the challenge and did really, really well.”

The Warrington-based team handled thousands of calls from across the North West as Storm Desmond wreaked havoc in the region. In Lancashire alone, fire crews received around 450 calls for help over the weekend. Meanwhile Cumbria Police declared a major incident as around 5,000 properties were estimated to have flooded.

Thousands of homes across the two counties were left without power as Electricity North West battled to repair damage to its substation in Lancaster.

Flooding at St Michaels on Wyre

Mr Taylor said: “The 999 teams have to handle that situation, assess what priority a case is and refer it to the crews. All of that has been done without a loss of life in Lancashire and it’s really quite something.”

Concerns had been raised that setting up a centralised 999 call-handling centre to cover Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Cheshire would lead to a lack of local knowledge but he said the move had ‘really paid off’.

A severe flood warning last night remained in place for St Michaels – warning of risk to life – after the water level in the River Wyre reached a record high on Sunday.

The Environment Agency warned further rain overnight could see river levels rise again, peaking at around 8am tomorrow – but said it does not anticipate any ‘significant’ impact on the current situation.

The army helps with the flooding clean-up in St Michaels

Lancashire County Council said roads around St Michaels remained closed last night, with the village ‘inaccessible’ from the west.

Part of the A586 was closed due to flooding, while St Michael’s Road and Hall Lane were shut from the A6 at Bilsborrow to St Michaels. Traffic was able to access the village from the east using the A586 where it joins the A6 at Kirkland.

Wyre Council said its mobile advice centre, which was on the car park at The Grapes pub yesterday to support those affected by flooding, will be in place again today. A Facebook group called ‘Help for people who have been affected by the floods in St Michaels Wyre’ has more than 120 likes last night.

Meanwhile, Fylde coast MPs have hailed the response to the floods.

Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre and Preston North, last night praised the soldiers who joined the clean-up operation yesterday.

He tweeted: “A big thank you to the Duke of Lancs Regiment for help today at St Michaels.”

On Monday, Fylde MP Mark Menzies secured a pledge from environment secretary Elizabeth Truss to look at the impact of flooding on farmers in the region.

Speaking in the House of Commons he said: “May I put on record my thanks to the emergency services and to officials at DEFRA and the Department of Transport for the work they have put in over the weekend?

“Will the Secretary of State assure me that she will continue to work with farmers in my constituency to ensure that the devastation that some of them have suffered over recent days will be looked at with sympathy?”

Ms Truss yesterday confirmed the Government will be providing support to areas affected by the flooding.

She told MPs: “My colleague, the communities secretary, will shortly be opening the Bellwin scheme for local authorities affected by floods, and... 100 per cent of eligible costs will be met by the Government.

“We will be announcing support schemes over the coming days.