26 Sep 2012

Block of flats in danger of collapse as downpours ease

As flooding threats move further south, residents of a block of flats in Tyne and Wear which is in danger of collapse following torrential rain, tell Channel 4 News they feel they have been abandoned

A block of flats at Spencer Court, Newburn, Newcastle upon Tyne which is in danger of collapse following heavy rain (Credit: Tyne and Wear fire brigade)

The modern-built buildings, Spencer Court and Mill Vale in Newburn, Newcastle upon Tyne, had to be evacuated amid fears their foundations had been washed away by high levels of rain.

The land on which the culvert thought to be responsible for the flood is situated, is owned by the Duke of Northumberland. The duke’s office told Channel 4 News’ North of England reporter Ciaran Jenkins they will not accept responsibility for the problem and that an investigation is ongoing.

But residents say they feel they have been abandoned. Resident Paula Davison told Channel 4 News she has been flooded four times and that she wants the duke to write her a cheque for her home so she can “leave this nightmare behind”. It could be up to a year before she can move back in.

Channel 4 News understands that some residents will be able to return to their homes, however many others will only be able to return for a short time to collect their belongings.

Julie Watson, shopowner, worried about flooding and looting. (Channel 4 News)


Meanwhile, looters have struck at a flood-hit shop and stolen bikes worth tens of thousands of pounds, a retailer said. Thieves broke into KB Cycles in Newburn, Newcastle, close to where a modern block of townhouses was evacuated amid fears it could collapse.

Julie Watson (pictured) whose bridal wear business shares the same building told Channel 4 News: “I’m worried for my stock, as much from the thieves as from the floodwater. We’ve only been open seven months. I don’t yet know what state my business is in. This is absolutely devastating.

“If only I could hold of the toe rags that did this, ” she said.

A landslip through the centre of the town left roads buckled and collapsed and debris strewn across roads. In places residents had to pick their way across ladders laid down over the broken ground.

Most intense storm

The north east was one of the areas worst hit by the bad weather which saw roads and railways grind to a halt because of the rain and flooding.

Communities are being warned of the possibility of more flooding after the most intense September storm for decades left 400 homes and businesses flooded and caused widespread chaos.

Some areas have seen more than double the average rainfall for the month since Sunday, and although the worst of the rain has now passed, river levels in some places were still rising as the water comes down through the system.

There were still more than 50 flood warnings of river flooding in place on Wednesday evening, mostly in northern England, and 100 less serious flood alerts.

The Environment Agency said rivers such as the Ouse, which flows through York, and the Dane, which flows through Crewe, Nantwich and Northwich, had yet to peak this afternoon and posed a real risk of flooding.

And other rivers including the Weaver, Wharfe, Aire and Ure were being closely monitored, with high water levels threatening to cause further flooding in places such as Tadcaster.

The North Yorkshire town was split in two by the closure of the bridge which carries the A659 over the River Wharfe as a precaution after firefighters noticed water seeping through the structure.

Water levels need to fall before the bridge can be properly inspected, and the route is not likely to reopen until tomorrow at the earliest.

Overflowing rivers

Another North Yorkshire town, Boroughbridge, was also divided when the bridge over the River Ure was closed due to flooding.

Firefighters had to rescue people from a number of riverside homes in the area.

Further north, a small bridge partially collapsed in the village of Scorton, near Richmond.

In York, the city council said the River Ouse had flooded riverside car parks, footpaths and roads in areas of the historic city which are often affected by high water levels, but officials do not expect it to breach the main defences.

The road and rail network was still struggling to return to normal, with delays and disruptions continuing to a number of train services across the north of England.

The A1 remained closed northbound near Catterick, although the southbound carriage had reopened, and the A66 was still shut in both directions near Darlington.

More than 300 properties have flooded across the country since Sunday, including in Morpeth, Durham, Chester-le-Street and Stockton on Tees, the Environment Agency said.

A car trapped in a landslide at Newburn, Newcastle upon Tyne (Credit: Ciaran Jenkins)