Kirkstall Road curry house owner 'scared stiff' as Storm Ciara brings back memories of devastating 2015 Boxing Day floods

Kirkstall businesses have endured a fearful weekend as Storm Ciara brought the River Aire to its highest levels since the disastrous 2015 Boxing Day floods.

Monday, 10th February 2020, 5:00 pm

Azram Chaudhry, owner of the popular Sheesh Mahal restaurant, said he was still "scared stiff" when the Yorkshire Evening Post called on Monday.

He stayed at the Kirkstall Road curry house until 11pm on Sunday, after police had evacuated the Cardigan Fields complex amid fears the area would flood.

The episode brought back painful memories of 2015 for Mr Chaudry, who faced "breaking point" when flooding devastated his business.

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Azram Chaudhry's curry house was badly affected by the 2015 floods, left.

The deluge battered 3,355 properties in Leeds, 672 of which were businesses.

On Monday it appeared to have been a near-miss for many business owners in the area, but Mr Chaudhry was yet to visit the restaurant.

"We are still vulnerable because we have a basement," he said. "I just hope we are OK."

Other independent Kirkstall businesses, including Manjit's Kitchen and Seagulls Paint, said they had avoided the flooding. The Kirkstall Bridge shopping complex also reopenend.

Azram Chaudhry pictured in December 2015 in the basement kitchens that were flooded to the top of the ceiling.

Despite improvements to flood defences in Leeds in the last few years, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has criticised the government for not living up to the promises it made to protect the city after 2015.

Work began last month on phase two of the £112m Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, which will see defences built upstream of the city's railway station, along the so-called Kirkstall Corridor.

Mr Chaudhry said he recognised that business owners could only see the story from their own perspective and that flood defences took time and money - but said more should have been done.

"We can only get mad because of what has happened to us - we don't see it from their side," he said.

"But it should have been done. In all the flood meetings I have been in, they have said everything should be done by 2022 - but how many businesses could be gone by that time?

"They have wasted a lot of time. It could have been done ages ago. It has been nearly five years."

In 2015, water filled the eight foot high cellar kitchens and spilled in to the restaurant, wrecking everything from the floorboards up.

It took 14 months of hard work and more than £200,000 invested in getting the restaurant back up and running.

"We went through hell last time," Mr Chaudhry said. "In around September 2016 I reached breaking point. I was on the edge financially, physically, mentally. I don't know how I got through it.

"If it happens again, I don't think I will be able to find the willpower to go through that and open again."