Yorkshire counts the cost of flash floods

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The Independent Online

Damage caused by intense flash floods which cut off parts of Yorkshire will cost tens of millions of pounds to repair, insurers said today.

Damage caused by intense flash floods which cut off parts of Yorkshire will cost tens of millions of pounds to repair, insurers said today.

A major clean-up operation is in full swing after the freak weather washed away roads, caused landslides and isolated whole villages yesterday.

Rescue services in North Yorkshire scrambled a helicopter to trace nine people reported missing after the deluge, which sent floodwaters coursing through the town of Helmsley and closed off the A170 and the B1257.

Police said the missing were found safe and well and confirmed that a motorist was plucked from the roof of her car and two others rescued from a gate. The incessant downpour over the North York Moors which sparked the flood cracked a bridge leading into Helmsley and left it in a "perilous" state, officers said.A bridge in Hawnby, in North Yorkshire, was also washed away by the floods, which peaked at 1.37am today.

Peter Duncan, of Helmsley, said the situation in the town was "horrendous" last night.He said: "It's left a right mess. It's so lucky that no one has been killed. It all happened so quickly. I live up in the village and it just got darker during the afternoon before it all came down.

"It's a good job it happened last night and not on Saturday as it would have been much worse."It was just horrendous. But it looks much better this morning."

Paul Kelsey, 45, of Harrogate, saw seven of his friends plucked to safety by the rescue crews after they became stranded following a motorcycling event at Duncombe Park.He said he was called away from a meal to an area of the town where the bikers were staying and watched as the floodwaters rapidly rose.

"We didn't know what was happening at the time but when we got there, we saw the waters rising and they just kept coming," said Mr Kelsey.

"We just did what we could to save our stuff. I've still got a tent and all my gear down there."At first we dived in to try to get as much of our stuff as possible but the waters, they just kept coming."

He said: "Two airlifts saved seven of my mates. One was stuck up a tree and the others were just struggling.

"I don't know whether they saved their lives or not but they'd have been struggling without their help."

The motorcycling enthusiast said he saw several caravans taken away by the water and smashed against the nearby bridge.

He said: "A 20ft container unit just floated away and hit the bridge. It's just matchwood now."It was dreadful down there. We were going to have a party last night but in the end we were just trying to save whatever we could."

An air sea rescue helicopter from RAF Leconfield was drafted in to help lift people to safety in the aftermath of the storm, which began to lash the area from 5pm.

One elderly woman was winched from the village of Hawnby, which was cut off, after suffering a suspected heart attack and was flown to the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.This morning, small crowds watched in Helmsley as firefighters began work to pump away the floodwaters and street cleaners joined efforts to move debris.Outside the Swan Hotel, on Market Place, tourists stood drinking tea as carpets were laid outside the front steps to dry in the sun.

Malcolm Tarling, spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, said it is too early to estimate the total cost of damage, but admitted the bill will be tens of millions of pounds"Flooding is covered by household or business policies and because most companies have 24-hour repair services, people will be able to begin sorting out the problems today," he said."While it's too early yet to know exactly how much the damage bill will be, it is certain to run into tens of millions of pounds.

"Insurers have been braced for these floods, it's not something unexpected. Isn't this the way that all British heatwaves end - with a downpour?"

At Thompson's butcher's in Bridge Street, Helmsley, worker John Windress said the shop took the brunt of the floods as the nearby River Rye burst its banks."The house is a waste of time. I've just been in there to have a look for my boss and it's a right mess," he said.

North Yorkshire Police said officers are waiting for clearance to begin a search of all areas where the water flowed yesterday.

A spokesman said no one has been reported missing and confirmed no bodies had been found, but revealed that officers will conduct thorough searches to ensure there were no casualties.Rescue services elsewhere in Britain also battled with snap floods last night, with more than 100 calls made to Staffordshire Fire Service.

Crews attended 30 addresses in parts of Cannock and Upper Gornal and Wolverhampton, in the West Midlands, affected by the deluge.

While the torrential rainstorms hit parts of the North and Midlands, the South sweltered in the hottest weather so far this year yesterday as temperatures in London soared to a countrywide high of 33C (91.4F).

The heatwave also saw a string of fatal accidents, with a 16-year-old boy found drowned in the Thames at Sunbury, west London, and a 17-year-old in the River Medlock at Clayton Vale, Manchester.

In Stevenage, Hertfordshire, a 30-year-old man died after plunging into a boating lake on Friday and a 35-year-old man drowned in similar circumstances on Saturday in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

A 23-year-old man was pulled from the sea yesterday near Anstys Cove beach in Babbacombe, Devon, and a 24-year-old man died after being rescued from an outdoor swimming pool in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, yesterday evening.

Police said they are also investigating after a 13-year-old boy was critically injured while racing at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy at Portland, Dorset.