'We lost everything' - Families reveal flooding trauma and call for bridge
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
Families whose homes were wrecked by flooding in December have shared their incredible stories as they demanded Norfolk County Council take action to prevent it happening again.
Three months after metre-high flooding ripped through homes in Redenhall and Lushbush, just outside of Harleston, the community is still dealing with its devastating effects.
Six families have been living in temporary accommodation since December, with no idea when they can return and many are still reeling from the terrifying experience.
But despite their heartache, the Redenhall Flood Group have rallied together to demand answers and the building of a new bridge on the A143 – which they believe is partly to blame for the severe flooding.
On Tuesday residents were at Redenhall Bridge, where Norfolk County Council highways team are currently doing repair work.
But group organiser and Redenhall resident, Abigail Mill, said more needs to be done to prevent this from happening again.
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The 51-year-old said: “We have the Starston beck running at the back of our properties.
“On the night a months’ worth of rainfall fell in one day. We are not on the flood warning or plain.
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“But we were hit with the massive flooding from both sides, the beck burst its bank and we got hit by all the surface water from the fields.
“We didn’t have a hope. It went from 1ft at 1am and at 3am it was 1 metre. It was like we were sitting in a goldfish bowl. We didn’t have a hope.
“There are so many contributing factors but we all believe it is the bridge that is at fault.
"If everything was working properly it should have flowed through onto the floodplain and we wouldn’t have been flooded at the level that we were.
“We also recently discovered that in 1987 an identical flood happened. The same community fought the council and said the bridge was not built correctly.
“Yet here we are again and we are here in exactly the same boat.
“But highways are planning to repair it rather than rebuild it. So, we are putting pressure on the council to apply for external funding. It’s completely inadequate.”
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said an assessment on the bridge will be carried out as part of a Norfolk-wide flooding report.
They said: “Investigations are ongoing into the 400+ reports of flooding across Norfolk from December 2020.
“For each location, such as at Redenhall, the flood investigation report will look into the rainfall intensity and impact, response of relevant organisations, the likely causes and will recommend remedial actions and measures.
“This investigation involves talking to home owners, local councils, drainage organisations and relevant local landowners, and we aim to publish the report in summer 2021, after a period of consultation with the local community and key organisations.”
The group of 12 families have said until a new bridge is built, they will not feel safe in their homes.
Here are their stories:
Ken and Jolanta Alison
Mr and Mrs Allison’s bungalow was among the worst hit.
In the early hours of December 23, they realised their home was flooding, but by the time they had packed their bags their car was submerged in water and they had to shelter in their attic.
After realising the couple were trapped, at around 4am neighbours waded through the water and piggy-backed them to safety.
Mrs Allison, 76, said: “We haven’t got a house. It is standing but everything is gone. 40 years of our lives has been destroyed. It is absolutely soul destroying.
“Soon after the flooding Ken was taken to hospital where they found he had pneumonia and tested positive for Covid-19.
“I was without a house, in temporary accommodation, my husband was so ill and I couldn't even speak to him.
“It was absolutely horrific. But Ken has recovered fantastically. He is doing very well and we have found another temporary accommodation. But it will have a lasting effect emotionally, I suffered very badly."
David and Jayne Gittins
Mr and Mrs Gittins said it was the worst experience of their lives when they were woken up to the sound of their puppy, Molly, whimpering downstairs.
In the pitch black, with no power, in freezing cold temperatures Mr Gittins discovered Molly on top of her bed with water up to her shoulders.
Mr Gittins, 59, said: “I stood there trying to process what was happening. I thought ‘oh my god’ my dog is stuck in the kitchen. She was freezing cold and soaking wet.
“It was horrendous - the worst experience of my life. You can’t even the imagine the shear panic you feel when you realise you are stood in water in pitch black.”
The couple are now living in temporary accommodation in Bungay and say it could take up to six months until they can return home.
“Our house has been completely gutted,” said Mr Gittins.
“You can’t believe the stress of it, the not sleeping, not knowing what’s happening or how long we will be away for, what will happen to the value of the house, will we get insurance - it’s one of those things you never think will happen to you."
Roger and Linda Walsh
Mr and Mrs Walsh are also living in temporary accommodation, after their bungalow was destroyed by the floods.
Mr Walsh, 62, said: “We have lost everything in our lives. There is nothing. We escaped with a pair of wellies and a pair of boots each.
“Our lives have changed completely and utterly. We are trying hard to be positive, but the trauma has been significant.
“We spent 12 years here getting our home how we wanted it, during lockdown we spent all of last year in our garden. It’s devastating.
“But looking at the bridge the next morning it was really clear. On one side of the bridge the water was very high and on the other side it was a metre lower.
“There are contributing factors and we totally acknowledge that.
“But in the bigger picture, we really want Norfolk County Council to review this situation and it is clear from paper work that we have, that there was a similar issue in 1987. The arch of the bridge is insufficient for the more unusual floods."
Valerie Barrell and Bill Hirst
Before the floods hit back in December, Ms Barrell and Mr Hirst were all packed and ready to move home.
But now they are stuck, after their buyer pulled out, their house price decreased and insurance doubled.
The 75-year-old said: “We were on the market we had a buyer we were packed up.
“I brought boxes of family photographs and all of my mother’s family history back to 1115 down to the garage.
“When we got woken in the morning, we had six inches in the house and a metre and a half in the garage, where all of our heirlooms and photographs were. That is all gone.
“We lost our buyer and our insurance has now gone up double. The estate agent said it has taken £100,000 off of house.
“We are now resigned to the fact that we are going to stay and extend. That’s the only thing we can do."