Looters strike as thousands are left homeless after worst storm for 30 years

 

Thousands of homes were still under threat of flooding last night after days of heavy rain caused disruption across the North – with outbreaks of looting in some areas.

The most intense September storm for 30 years eased yesterday but some communities were warned they were still at risk from high river levels. Around 50 flood warnings remained in place last night. Residents of a block of townhouses in Newburn, Newcastle, were among those facing a second night out of their homes after floodwater gouged out the ground beneath the building, which remains cordoned off amid safety concerns.

Looters broke into the nearby KB Cycles shop in the town and stole bikes worth tens of thousands of pounds from the shop while roads were blocked by water and silt.

Police condemned the "despicable" behaviour and laid on extra patrols. But elsewhere the crisis brought out the better side of human nature. In the Yorkshire Dales one farmer spared his neighbours from being swamped. Jonathan Bradbrook was sitting in his farm house on the outskirts of Ravensworth, near Richmond, on Monday night when he spotted a torrent coming down the lane. He said: "I said: 'There is only one thing I can do – get the water off the road."

The 46-year old father-of-one ran out to the tractor shed and, knowing disaster was only minutes away, used his JCB to start attacking the hedge with a mechanical shovel. He levelled a 10ft wide section and watched as the water poured through the gap and created a lake behind his farm house. Turning the JCB around, he drove back into the village and scooped out another channel to divert water from the road into nearby fields.

A few miles away in Gilling West 2,000 villagers remained divided by a 100m long lake lapping along the High Street. Dave Walker, 28, and partner Polly Boyce, 24, were awoken at midnight by the fire brigade pumping out the house next door. He said: "When I stepped in the lounge I could feel my feet squelching on the carpet. Then the water started coming up through the floors."

Ms Boyce added: "It was panic stations then be managed to get everything we could upstairs." By morning they were homeless.

The Association of British Insurers said the storms left 400 homes and businesses flooded, and underlined the risk to up to 2.4 million homes, many of which mortgage providers may be increasingly reluctant to lend on.

More flooding could be on the cards by the River Ouse in Yorkshire and its tributaries. Towns under threat include Ripon, Borough Bridge and Tadcaster, where the bridge which carries the A659 over the River Wharfe was closed for safety checks.

But in other hotspots such as Morpeth, Northumberland, conditions were improving and water levels were falling.

THE FORECAST

Today will be drier than it has been for most areas, but there will be scattered showers in the afternoon with more rain expected overnight. Rain will first affect central and south-eastern areas, gradually moving into the North-west throughout the day.

Tomorrow, showers are forecast for the North and West, shifting south-easterly through the day. The heaviest rain will hit western Scotland. On Saturday northern and western parts will see scattered showers, but it will be largely dry with sunny spells. Rain and wind is predicted for Sunday.

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