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Cumbria floods: police officer's body found

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 20 November 2009

It has been described as being of biblical proportions, a once in every thousand years event. A policeman has been killed and 200 people rescued after unprecedented rainfall brought flooding and devastation to Cumbria. Jane Deith and Alex Thomson report.

Pc Bill Barker who was swept away in the Cumbria floods (credit:Reuters)

The body of Pc Bill Barker, who was swept away when Northside Bridge in Workington collapsed during the floods in Cumbria, has been found. Cumbria Police chief constable Craig Mackey said: "It is with deep sadness that I can confirm that the body found on a beach at Allonby this afternoon is that of our friend and colleague Pc Bill Barker."

Pc Barker, 44, who served with Cumbria Police for 25 years, leaves a wife and four children. He would have celebrated his 45th birthday tomorrow.

Pc Barker had been directing motorists away from Northside Bridge in Workington, Cumbria, when he disappeared into the swollen waters of the River Derwent early today.

Cumbria Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Graham said Pc Barker was "saving lives when the tragic incident occurred". A major search for Pc Barker was hampered by "horrendous" weather conditions which forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.

Mr Graham said: "He is a valued colleague and friend of many officers and staff within the constabulary - and to those in West Cumbria where he lives and serves."

Pc Barker received a long service and good conduct medal after 22 years service with the force.

The floods have been devastating and the worst affected region is around the Lake District in Cumbria. At one stage, the only people in the centre of Cockermouth, which was under eight feet of water, were the emergency services, with Pc Bill Barker dying when the Northside Bridge in Workington collapsed just before 5am.

Two more bridges were also destroyed in the town and many homes, including the local police station, have been flooded. RAF helicopters airlifted at least 50 people and the RNLI was called in to lead people to safety by lifeboat.

Nine miles up river, in neighbouring Cockermouth, the Derwent is joined by another river the Cocker. When they burst their banks here, 200 people were rescued overnight. Either side of the town more bridges were destroyed.

The River Derwent carries water from the Lake District out to the Irish Sea at Workington. A bridge at Braithwaite in Keswick has collapsed, with water being diverted by rubble across the A66 after the River Greta burst its banks.

The Environment Agency gauging station at Seathwaite Farm recorded over 12 inches in a 24-hour period - a record for the UK.

The previous record high in the UK was 10.9 inches and the average winter reading for this area is just over four inches.

Alex Thomson was joined by local hotelier John Carlin.

Mr Carlin said: "We never thought that there would be so much water in such a short time and even having thought about it we didn't think that it would spread to the areas that it did spread to.

"Cockermouth has flooded in the past but nowhere near to this level."

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