Villagers hit by third ‘once in a lifetime flood’ feel ‘abandoned’ by government

Villagers forced to evacuate their homes amid killer floods say they feel abandoned by the government after being hit with their third “once-in-a-lifetime” deluge in 20 years.

Hundreds had to flee as further rainfall threatens homes and farms already hit by torrential downpours last week.

Cars were swept into ditches, homes were flooded up to their windowsills and farmers battled to save their livestock in the South Yorkshire village of Fishlake after the river Don burst its banks.

One resident said: “We feel this area has been sacrificed.”

Most of the 700 residents were told to leave and the Environment Agency called for help from the RAF, which sent a chinook to shore up flood defences.

Five severe “threat to life” warnings were issued on the River Don.

The Met Office forecast up to 60mm rainfall for the battered region on Thursday.

A month’s worth is usually 89mm.

Fishlake resident Greg Mawson said: “It was 58mm that caused this now, according to my neighbour who had a rain gauge. So if we get 60mm again, on Thursday we’re done.”

An oil slick was developing in flood water from tanks used for heating in Fishlake, which is not on mains gas.

Last night Boris Johnson finally called an emergency COBRA meeting as over 38 flood warnings and 96 flood alerts were issued across the country.

It came after he denied the flooding was a national emergency on a weekend visit to Matlock, Derbyshire, near where a body was pulled from the swollen Derwent.

Residents whose homes and livelihoods are under threat asked why the Prime Minister took so long to take it seriously.

Robert and Josie Robinson had two sleepless nights taking their 140 cattle to higher ground.

Robert, 55, said: “Nobody has come to see us since this happened, not the police, or the council. Nobody.”

Josie, 53, added: “Boris Johnson needs to come and have a look for himself if he thinks this isn’t a national emergency. Fishlake is like a ghost town.”

Don Turner, 71, and his wife Sandra, 70, from nearby Beever’s Bridge, were flooded in 2000 and 2007.

Sandra said: “We were told back then it was once in a lifetime.”

Don added: “In 2000 we were told it was very, very, unlikely to happen again. Then we were flooded in 2007. Our insurance went up to £1,500 a year.”

The Environment Agency said it was working round the clock in incident rooms and on the ground to keep people safe.

Teams have been clearing debris form rivers, operating flood storage areas and pumping away flood water.

A high-volume pump was sent to Fishlake and in Lincolnshire flood storage areas have been operated to protect 7,000 homes from the risk of flooding.

But Fishlake residents said no dredging had been done to prevent the floods.

Farmer Billy Duckitt said: “I’d like to see that river dredging. We don’t want this devastation to ever happen again.”

Farmer Ed Bayston, 51, from nearby East Cowick, who is helping his neighbours save their livestock, said: “There’s a lot of anger. Farmers feel dredging all over the country has been neglected for decades. It’s narrowing the path for the water to travel.

“There’s excess trees and vegetation, in and on, the river banks restricting the flow of water.

"The farming community feel very strongly that dredging is necessary to improve the flow of water and reduce the risk of flooding.”

The Environment Agency confirmed that no dredging had been done on the River Don close to the flooded areas.

A spokesman said: “Dredging is an important part of our maintenance programme but there is no benefit to dredging this part of the River Don as it wouldn’t reduce flood risk.

"Since 2010 we’ve invested £44million in flood defences in South Yorkshire, including three schemes which have protected thousands of homes from flooding over the past week.”

Fishlake resident Clark Granger, 23, said: “I’m angry about the lack of response from the council and the Environment Agency. By the time we got the severe flood alert we were under water. I feel utterly let down.”

Areas around Matlock are continuing their clean-up efforts after last week’s deluge.

Nottinghamshire fire crews rescued two homeless men trapped up to their necks in flood water in a bin they had been sleeping in. The men were taken to a pub in Worksop where they were given food and somewhere to sleep.

In Rotherham there was a rescue operation to save 60 swans from polluted floodwater. An upturned barge in Rotherham is thought to have resulted in gallons of oil being spilled into water inhabited by a group of the birds.

The Don, which flows through Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster, hit its highest recorded level at just over 6.3m last Friday – the day the body of Annie Hall, 69, former High Sheriff of Derbyshire, was pulled from the River Derwent after she was swept away by floods.

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