The aftermath: Kirkstall Road was ‘like a river coming past the end of our street’

Aerial pictures over the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds, show where the River Aire has burst its banks. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Aerial pictures over the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds, show where the River Aire has burst its banks. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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On any other day it is one of the busiest roads into Leeds.

But, as the sun rose yesterday, onlookers were greeted by the extraordinary sight of Kirkstall Road effectively transformed into a surging river after the Aire reached record levels and burst its banks.

Flooding in Kirkstall Road. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Flooding in Kirkstall Road. Picture Bruce Rollinson

With traffic diverted onto surrounding routes, there was an eerie quiet punctuated only by the sound of rushing water and stunned conversation among the many people who gathered at the scene. The smell of fetid water hung in the air.

Surajit Grewal, who lives on Argie Road, had been at home on Boxing Day evening when the deluge started.

She said: “I’d rung the fish and chip shop just to see if it was open and he told me there was a flood. I didn’t think anything of it and then suddenly the water started coming down the road.

“It was unbelievable, like a river coming past the end of the street.

“Some firemen had to get in a dinghy to rescue a woman from Asda.

“There were people coming from everywhere to watch what was going on.

“People who live here were panicking and then that started to escalate. I packed my suitcase just in case I had to leave.”

Her neighbour Brian Neath, 78, noticed something was wrong when his electric clock stopped at 7.40pm – the time the power supply was cut off.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “In 1947 the old thrift stores flooded, but this is something else.”

The homes on Argie Road, like many of the others leading onto Kirkstall Road, largely escaped flooding because they are built onto a steep hill.

Businesses on Kirkstall Road itself were not so lucky and, as the flood waters started to recede early yesterday afternoon, the devastating impact of the events of the previous 24 hours moved into sharp focus.

Hasan Chaudhry runs Hasan’s restaurant. His father, Azram, owns the long-established Sheesh Mahal next door.

“Everything is ruined,” Hasan said.

The basement level of his restaurant, which operates as a function room, was entirely submerged when water started to come in at about 4.30pm.

The underground room at Sheesh Mahal, where all the cooking is done, suffered a similar fate.

Both restaurants had to turn customers away before anyone had started eating.

“We tried to stop it with sand bags, but you can’t do anything to prevent water coming in,” Hasan said.

“This is our busiest time of year. I think we’re talking about weeks and months, not days, before we can get back from this.

“Words can’t describe how you feel. I wasn’t able to sleep until six in the morning.”

Faraz Jaffry, whose father Sher Afghan started what is now the Premier convenience store 30 years ago, said the business was also facing a long road to recovery. He said: “I’m absolutely devastated. I was panicking – thinking how will I survive this?

“I don’t doubt we will come back – we have to come back – but looking at it now it’s hard to see where you go from here.” Tony Barron, who works at the Cardigan Arms, was shell-shocked at the devastation caused.

While a morning clean-up left the ground floor level looking like it had escaped relatively unscathed, water destroyed thousands of pounds worth of stock kept in the expansive cellar.

Plans for the busy new year period were in tatters.

“It’s devastating,” he said.

A rallying cry has gone out for volunteers to help with the clean-up on Kirkstall Road.

Coun Lucinda Yeadon was hoping people would gather at 11am today to help. A clean-up was also taking place at the Kirkstall Bridge Inn from 10am.

Coun Yeadon said: “For the established businesses there who have spent so many years building up their livelihoods it’s devastating. It’s incredibly sad.”