10 Feb 2014

Thames floods: ‘Only rescue service we’ve had is the RSPCA’

As flooding causes havoc along the Thames, Channel 4 News Reporter Fatima Manji meets the people of Wraysbury, Berkshire, who say they feel abandoned by the emergency services.

UK flood: residents of Wraysbury use canoes in the streets

Since the early hours of Monday morning, local volunteers have been out in small boats helping people evacuate their homes.

The rescued are often taken to a local primary school, which has been turned into a base for volunteer operations and somewhere for people to get food, hot drinks and, if needed, a place to stay. Many who have left their homes are staying with family or friends, or in local hotels.

Despite water seeping into people’s homes, some are reluctant to leave. Make shift barricades are being constructed using sandbags, planks, and whatever other materials can be found.

Bruce Gilligan is one of those choosing not to leave his home. “The damage is already devastating,” he said. He and his wife have been trying to move their furniture to higher ground inside their home.

And there is frustration at a perceived lack of help from the authorities. One volunteer told me: “The only rescue service we’ve had here is the RSPCA.”

The RSPCA has been taking boats out onto flooded roads to rescue pets stranded in homes.

Volunteer Sue Burns has been co-ordinating rescue efforts. She is extremely angry at the lack of support from officials.

She called the police because residents leaving their homes are now concerned about looting and say they have seen suspicious groups of people driving into the village, but she said she found the police were dismissive.

One family with three children were leaving their home as water had begun to come in. When I met them they were heading for a temporary shelter in a local pub, and were undecided about whether or not they should stay in their home tonight.

They are angry, they told me, at the lack of information from officials to help them make their decision.