Lost 2 hours would have stopped ‘trauma and terror’ as floods engulfed homes

Flood victims have received an apology after an independent report found they could have had two more hours to save precious belongings if temporary defences hadn’t failed.

The news was greeted with dismay by Mytholmroyd residents, who said that extra time would have cut down on their “trauma and terror”.

One mum said it would have given her time to take her children to safety and save their uninsured contents.

These residents were among the worst hit during the devastating floods caused by Storm Ciara in February 2020, which engulfed the West Yorkshire valley, destroying 1,500 homes and businesses.

Lecturer, Suzanne Stankard, said: “In two hours we could have moved cars and taken more possessions upstairs.

“Instead it was just 20 minutes from the water coming in the door, to being over one metre high in the house.

“It’s not just the material things, to watch water coming into your home and rise at such speed is terrifying and traumatising.”

Work on a £30 million flood defence scheme in the valley began in Spring 2018 after the village was hit by a previous devastating deluge on Boxing Day 2015.

But the scheme was not complete and in the gaps “deficient” temporary flood defences (sandbags) were used despite storm warnings.

The report, released by the Environment Agency, also said if the scheme had been completed the flood defences should have held, during the one in 75 year event.

Jenny Cooke, from the Environment Agency, said: “It is important to say the deficiencies in those defences were below the standard we would aim to work for and we apologise for that.

“We recognise the distress that would have caused,” she said.

Mum, Rebecca Heyes, 41, whose children were aged four, 15 and 18 when their home was engulfed by flood water, said an extra two hours could have protected the youngsters from that distress.

She said: “That two hours would have saved the contents of my house and I could have got my children out of the way too. It was frightening.

“I’m 5ft 7in and it was up to my shoulders outside. There was turbulence to it too.

“I tried to save as much stuff as we could. I got the kids upstairs and literally swam across the living room. It was black water and it was so cold.

“The fridge tipped over, there was food floating around. A log from the river ended up in my living room.

“The water came in and hit the electric sockets. If it hadn’t have tripped….we were wading through it.

“The middle child took it the worst, he was shaking. It was like the end of the world.

“We could just hear things smashing downstairs against the walls and the noise from the river was deafening.

“I was really angry about the report as we had a meeting and they said at the time they said there was nothing they could have done, it wasn’t their fault.

“I only had house insurance, not contents. and my sofa was on finance and I’m still paying for that.

“The water was so deep and so fast it completely wiped us out, we were not prepared for that.

“I work from home, making jewellery. If I’d had time I could have saved all my tools outside. It was unbelievable.”

Asked what she would like them to do for the stricken residents, she said: “I’m not entitled to flood gates so it would make a massive difference if they did that for us.”

Her neighbour in the row of pretty cottages overlooking the River Calder,

Sally Baines, 60, told how she was hit for the second time by floods, in the home she had lived in for 23 years.

“After the first flood me and my late husband did a lot of the work ourselves, it was our last project together before he died in 2017,” she said.

“So the floods in 2020 ripped out everything we had achieved together. That was the worst part of it for me. It was all the hours we had put in together.

“Having to rip it out was like losing him all over again. It was horrific.

“The first time we flooded I had him with me but the second time was devastating because I was my own.

“I had 4.5ft of water in my house in 2015 and 4ft in 2020. It shouldn’t have happened again.“

Now Sally has put her husband’s ashes under the resin she’s now had put down to protect her patio from being washed away again.

“It gives me comfort, knowing he is there and is part of the next phase of the house,” she said. “I wanted him involved, so he’s there.”

Talking about the EA, she added: “I think the least they could do is compensate us and supply flood gates for our homes, it would be a nice gesture,” she added.

The report concluded if the temporary defences had worked, flooding would still have occurred to the same level and depth.

But their failure saw some properties flooding two hours earlier than if the temporary defences had acted as intended, she said.

The report summary said: “Overall, our modelling has demonstrated that the deficient installation of the temporary defences resulted in flooding to property earlier than would have been experienced had the temporary defences performed as intended.”

And it concluded: “Had the scheme been completed, it is our view that the flood waters from the River Calder and Cragg Brook would have been contained within the new defences.”

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