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Cumbria residents face flood's impact

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 23 November 2009

The safety engineers allow Cockermouth residents back into 900 homes and businesses in the town following last week's floods. Jane Deith reports.

Flood victims (credit:Reuters)

As the reality of soaked, destroyed houses and communities hit home so did the practicalities of day-to-day living in now divided communities.

Businesses and families hit by the floods in Cumbria are starting to assess the damage caused by torrential downpours, as some schools stay closed and communities remain cut off.

Councillor Jim Buchanan, leader of the Cumbria County Council in Cockermouth spoke to Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Engineers are carrying out urgent work as fears grew that Calva bridge in Workington could still be swept away.

The town was cut off with Friday's collapse of Northside bridge and the closure of Calva bridge means residents are forced to make lengthy detours of many miles, instead of usually short journeys.

Cumbria County Council says 13 primary schools and five secondary schools will stay closed today, with the majority hoping to reopen on Tuesday.

Police have confirmed a total of 16 bridges and at least 25 roads are closed. About 60 people are still sheltering in the two main reception centres.

Tony Cunningham, the MP for Workington, says getting to nearby Seaton has turned into a 90-mile journey, adding: "My major concern is residents who are cut off. Things are getting desperate."  

He suggested temporary structures may need to go up in the short-term but he said locals were responding well, adding: "The community spirit is incredible."

Paul Sayers, the director of floods and water at HR Wallingford, and Keith Lewis from Zurich Insurance spoke to Channel 4 News about cleaning up after the floods.

Keith Lewis said: "Our priority is to get our customers back into their homes as soon as possible but we need to look at the long term game here and make sure there are adequate long term strategies in place and investments programmes to ensure flood defences are in place in the future.

"We can only keep insuring properties if the government play their part in the process as well."

Paul Sayers spoke about the reality of living in a flood risk area.

"There are people who can't be protected from floods in terms of keeping the flood waters out of your property," he said.

"But everybody can be more prepared for that through resilient structures in their property making it easier to clean post an event, stopping water entering your property or even knowing where to go after a flood.

"For government and insurers I think a real challenge if for betterment - so when these properties are rebuilt they are not rebuilt to the old standard, they are built better."

Meanwhile, a search is resuming for a 21-year-old woman believed to have been swept away by a river swollen in the storms in Wales.

She went into the River Usk near Watergate Bridge, Brecon, at 7pm on Saturday. Police, fire brigade crews and mountain rescue teams have already searched a mile long stretch of fast flowing water.

Inspector Mark Davies, from Dyfed-Powys Police, said: "We are investigating the full circumstances of why the female was in the river and are concentrating all efforts on trying to find her.

"The helicopter and police search dogs are involved as well as appliances and assistants from other agencies.

"I would urge members of the public to stay away from the river edge, the conditions are very slippery and muddy and we do not want anyone else to end up in the river."

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