Floods force hundreds to evacuate their homes

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of people in Scotland were forced to abandon their homes and transport systems were left in chaos by flooding over the weekend.

Hundreds of people in Scotland were forced to abandon their homes and transport systems were left in chaos by flooding over the weekend.

About 200 people left their homes in Moray, between Inverness and Aberdeen, which was hit by six inches of rain in 48 hours in central areas. Serious flooding began on Saturday morning, caused by downpours in the region on Friday that led to the river Lossie overflowing.

At the height of the flooding in Elgin, east of Inverness, at least 10 people had to be lifted from the main street by RAF Lossiemouth services. Coastguards were drafted in to rescue people from their homes by boat.

Scores of stranded families were waiting yesterday to find out if they could return to their homes after spending two nights in rescue centres.

Emergency crews helped about 100 residents to evacuate homes in the towns of Elgin, Forres and Rothes and up to 100 fled their homes.

Elgin High School was being used as an emergency centre for 70 of those made temporarily homeless.

One Elgin couple, Moray Mackay, 33, and his wife, Louise, 34, left their riverside home and stayed in a motel with their two children.

Mr Mackay, who returned to his home to find it surrounded by water, said: "It was in here in a flash. We just picked up as much as we could from the floor and got out. But before we did, we could see the garden shed start to float."

In Forres, where the Mosset burn burst its banks, the local community centre was turned into makeshift accommodation. Coastguard crews from the Royal National Lifeboat Institute and about 80 Grampion Police officers were involved in rescues, and riverbanks were sandbagged.

Inspector Stewart Milne, from Grampion Police, said the floods had been "the worst in living memory".

He said there were reports that the flood water reached four feet high in some places by Saturday afternoon. "The police have been stretched to the limit over the weekend. There's no more rain forecast at the moment so hopefully the water's on its way down," he said.

A road bridge was swept away on the B9015 between Rothes and Mosstodloch and coastguard crews from Lossiemouth, Boghead and Buckie were called out overnight to assist in the evacuation.

The downpours also caused the closure of many roads and left the railway system in chaos. The Aberdeen to Inverness line between Insch and Forres was closed on Saturday night, as were 18 stretches of road in the north-east. Railtrack engineers were called in and special bus services were set up.

The Meteorological Office said yesterday that, while the torrential rain appeared to have drifted away, light showers might continue for the next few days. Peter Stewart, a forecaster, said: "I do not see much rain and, if there is, it will be light and nothing like the downpour the region experienced at the weekend".

The Moray region had experienced heavy snow during the week, and Mr Stewart said remnants of the previous days' weather might have contributed to the flooding.

"Rain of that magnitude is fairly unusual for the region and melting snow from around the area may have contributed to it. Water tends to collect in the mountains behind Elgin and runs off down the river Lossie, which could not cope in this instance," he said.

Alastair Keddie, Moray Council's chief executive, said that an application would be made to a government funding scheme to help with the cost of the clean-up.