Floods: How Leeds faced testing festive week

Aerial picture over the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds, where flooding occurred after the monumental amount of rain caused the river Aire to burst its banks.  Pic: Ross Parry

Aerial picture over the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds, where flooding occurred after the monumental amount of rain caused the river Aire to burst its banks. Pic: Ross Parry

1
Have your say

THE water levels are receding but the true cost of the devastating Boxing Day storms is only just being felt, as Leeds communities show great strength to face what remains an almighty clear-up operation.

Following the worst flooding to hit parts of Yorkshire since the Second World War, there is a clamour for the Government to reassess how it manages flooding.

Cars under floodwater at Viaduct Road, Kirkstall after the River Aire burst its banks.  Picture Tony Johnson

Cars under floodwater at Viaduct Road, Kirkstall after the River Aire burst its banks. Picture Tony Johnson

Towering piles of wrecked possessions became familiar images over the past week in the heart-breaking aftermath of Storm Eva’s 80mph winds and heavy rainfall, as the flooding seen in Cumbria the run up to Christmas hit Yorkshire in the midst of the festive season.

The nightmare started to unfold last Saturday when the River Aire reached a record peak of 2.95m at Crown Point in Leeds city centre - above its usual height of 0.9m. In Armley, flood levels rose to 4.61 metres later that evening.

After the river water burst its banks, around 1,000 homes and 400 businesses were submerged, in the city centre, Kirstall and Otley.

By 10.30pm, an estimated 15,000 people in West and North Yorkshire were without power, and Calderdale, Bradford, parts of Wakefield, Mickletown, Addingham, Ilkley, Otley, Castley Lane, Tadcaster and Harewood had also been hit by flooding.

Volunteers clear the mud from the Kirkstall Bridge pub after the flood.

Volunteers clear the mud from the Kirkstall Bridge pub after the flood.

Rail services were disrupted with the line at Kirkstall four feet underwater.

In first 24 hours of the disaster, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service carried out 40 rescues and took 700 999 calls.

The Army deployed 100 soldiers and other fire and rescue services sent manpower to help with the relief effort.

By Monday, the rains had stopped and the waters in Leeds city centre had largely subsided, allowing the clear-up to begin.

Kirkstall Road, one of the main routes into the city, finally reopened having been turned into a sea of mud when the Aire overflowed.

Businesses along Kirkstall Road lost thousands of pounds worth of stock and equipment in flooded basements.

Three nearby recording studios were hit, Suburban Home, Soundworks Studios - home to Kaiser Chiefs, The Cribs and Embrace - and Blueberry Hill Studios, and a fundraising gig is being held to raise money for Blueberry Hill Studios at Brudenell Social Club tomorrow.

Dozens of volunteers gathered at the Kirkstall Bridge Inn on Monday morning to clear tonnes of sludge and debris from the car park and clean the cellar.

A mass outpouring of community support for those affected has seen thousands well wishes and offers of help posted on social media.

Karen Bullock, of Southend, Essex, said she wanted to thank people who offered help to the badly flooded Aire Bar on The Calls run by her daughter Louise and son-in-law Chris.

“I would just like to say thank you for all the kindness and support that you have shown Louise and Chris over the past few days. They have been overwhelmed by it all,” Mrs Bullock said.

On Tuesday, Communities Secretary Greg Clark met council leaders and traders to discuss the disaster, although his announcement that £50m was available to Yorkshire councils to help people get back on their feet was branded a “sticking plaster”.

Pressure is mounting on the Government to review its approach to flooding, while Leeds Council chief executive Tom Riordan said a £180m flood defence scheme for the city, which was dropped by the government in 2011, would have mitigated the impact of Saturday’s floods.

The Environment Secretary Liz Truss and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also visited damaged parts of Leeds this week, and on a visit to flood-hit York, Prime Minister David Cameron claimed more money was being spent per head on flood defences in the North than in the South.

To aid the city’s recovery, the Yorkshire Evening Post is backing an appeal run by the Leeds Community Foundation to raise funds for temporary accommodation, emergency supplies and to replace ruined stock and equipment. For details, visit www.justgiving.com/leeds-flood-relief-appeal