Residents and holidaymakers await flooding news after night in refuge centres
Residents and holidaymakers were hoping to learn today whether they can return to their flood-ravaged homes and caravans after spending the night in refuge centres.
A large-scale rescue operation swung into action after heavy rainfall sent water several feet deep surging through communities in west Wales.
Some 150 people were rescued and evacuated to the centres as caravan parks and villages near Aberystwyth were inundated after twice as much rain fell in 24 hours than normally falls in the area in the whole of June.
Police said the overall number who left their homes, including those who did not need to go to the centres, was nearer 1,000.
Last night a spokeswoman said: “Numbers in rest centres have fallen as people try to make their own arrangements but some people are spending the night there.”
Senior politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, paid tribute to Royal Air Force helicopter crews, fire service teams, coastguard and RNLI lifeboat crews and the emergency services who ensured there were no serious casualties.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has spoken with Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones and Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, to be fully briefed on the flooding in the west of the country.
“Mr Cameron offered his full support to all those affected by the extreme weather and passed on his thanks to the dedication of the RAF, lifeboat crews, emergency and other local services who have worked tirelessly to make people safe and keep disruption to a minimum.”
An inshore lifeboat team taking part in relief efforts had to be airlifted when they got into difficulties after helping to pluck a disabled man from a flooded caravan because a Royal Air Force (RAF) helicopter was 20 minutes' flying time away.
Four holiday camps along the River Lery were evacuated when the swollen waters breached its banks.
The Secretary of State for Wales said: “This has been a very impressive operation in horrific weather conditions and with unprecedented flood levels.
“Those involved in the rescue mission at the caravan parks ... have acted quickly and with courage.”
Mr Jones was “very concerned” about the flooding.
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “He has been receiving updates throughout the day on the situation.
“The First Minister's thanks go to all those involved in the rescue operation.”
Dozens of people took refuge in a community centre in Talybont and three people were winched away from the Riverside Caravan Park in Llandre by RAF Sea King helicopters.
Dyfed-Powys Police said three people needed treatment for minor injuries.
The alarm was raised in the early hours after more than five inches of rain fell in 24 hours.
Residents described scenes of devastation and carnage, but the community pulled together to provide food and shelter, and help the more vulnerable.
Resident Sam Ebenezer, in Talybont, told the BBC: “The amount of water is just amazing, it's flowing from higher ground, incredible scenes, it's devastating seeing close friends' housing being soaked all the way through.”
A Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said emergency services were called at around 3am and there was “a large amount of water and a heavy current” running through Riverside Caravan Park.
Other rescues took place throughout the day at Aberystwyth Holiday Village in Penparcau, Sea Rivers Caravan Park in Ynyslas, Borth and Mill House Caravan Park in Dol-y-Bont, Borth.
A volunteer RNLI crew, who had launched on to the River Lery after a request from the coastguard, encountered difficulties.
A spokesman said: “The force of the river current, with the amount of debris in the water, made returning to their original launch site too dangerous and once everyone had been evacuated, the crew decided to secure the lifeboat and were airlifted to safety by helicopter.”
Paul Mott, senior forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said that 81mm (more than three inches) of rain fell in the 24 hours to 7am on Saturday at Trawscoed, Ceredigion, while some areas in that region would have had 150mm (more than six inches) over the same period.
The average amount of rain for the whole month of June in that area is nearer 70mm (just under three inches).
“That's what's caused the problem, all the rainwater has funnelled into the rivers, causing flooding in river valleys,” he said.
“We've seen the worst of the rainfall in the flood-hit area, with maybe just some showers in the next few days,” he said.
“River levels are still pretty high, so there could still be some problems with flooding from the remainder of the rain that has fallen over the last 36 hours, but the lack of significant further rainfall should alleviate the situation.”
Police said a bridge in Talybont and another in the village of Goginan had sustained some damage.
They would need to be inspected and assessed, but were not thought to be in imminent danger of collapse, a spokeswoman said.
Fire crews were today engaged in pumping out remaining water in industrial and residential areas.
Andy Francis, of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, told the BBC: “There's mass scale damage to caravan parks and indeed, more importantly really, to private dwellings throughout the area. A lot of flood water's gone through them, leaving a huge amount of damage, and a residual danger as well from the biohazards, from sewerage, and other contaminants that have entered the waters.
“Lots of sewers may have been damaged, and indeed gas and water supplies damaged, so my advice to anybody entering their properties this morning is to take sensible precautions, make sure your gas and electricity are checked, preferably turned off now, and checked by qualified persons before you actually reactivate them, and indeed take sensible precautions and protection against the biohazards from possible contaminants that may have entered the water during the flood period.”
He said high river levels remained a risk. “Please do not go near the water, it's still extremely dangerous, and don't try to drive through it either, because you will end up becoming a casualty and requiring rescue.”
Asked about four youths who had taken to a dinghy and had to be helped, he said: “Some people have thought that it was an opportunity to have some extreme sports, it's not an extreme sport, it's extremely dangerous, you are likely to lose your life.
“Yesterday we ended up having to despatch a helicopter and rescue crews for what could have been avoided.”
Two villages near York were hit by flash floods yesterday, leaving properties inundated.
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service said they pumped water out of Flaxton and Stockton-on-the-Forest after torrential rain yesterday afternoon.
The flooding was concentrated in Main Street in Flaxton and Sandy Lane in Stockton-on-the-Forest.
Flaxton resident Sarah Jackson told the York Press: “The whole ground went white with the ice from the hail storm. I have lived here for 17 years and have never, ever experienced anything like this. There was thunder and lightning for over an hour.”
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