Storm Desmond: Muslim charity dispatched to Cumbria amid further flood warnings

Blackburn-based Al-Imdaad Foundation helps victims of natural catastrophes in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan 

Amid warnings of further flooding in north-west England, disaster relief teams from a Muslim charity which helps victims of natural catastrophes in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan have been dispatched to Cumbria.

And the teams from the Blackburn-based Al-Imdaad Foundation will be joined by more than 60 volunteers from the charity this weekend. It is part of a wider relief effort already involving hundreds of people ranging from local mountain rescue teams, to soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, and players from Carlisle United.

Those living in Cumbria and other areas affected by flooding were warned to remain vigilant by the Environment Agency this evening, with more rain expected bringing “potential for further disruption.” Seven flood warnings and 22 flood alerts have remained in place across northern England.

And a severe weather warning for northern England and Scotland was issued by the Met Office, with gales of up to 70 mph predicted tonight. But rivers are not expected to return to the levels reached last weekend, when Cumbria had more than twice as much rain in 24 hours than it would normally expect for the whole of December.

More than 6,400 homes may have been flooded in total, according to Cumbria Police. And the county has suffered an estimated £500m of damage, almost double the cost of the floods that it experienced six years ago, warned accountancy firm PwC. Around a thousand customers in Cumbria remained without powertoday, said Electricity Northwest. And the largest school in the county, Trinity School in Carlisle, will stay closed until the New Year because of flood damage.

Sufyaan Valimulla, 23, part of a team from the Al-Imdaad Foundation which arrived in Carlisle today, told The Independent: “We’re liaising with the Cumbria fire and rescue service. This morning we were told that a lot of people, especially the elderly, are going back from rescue centres to their homes, and are seeing the devastation there. We’ve been providing hot food, fresh water, and helping people clear their homes.” He added: “A lot of people have been decorating their homes for Christmas and have been literally crying on our shoulders because they are heartbroken and distraught.” More than 60 volunteers have already signed up to come at the weekend, but Mr Valimulla said: “People need a lot more help, whatever we do is never going to be enough.”

George Osborne has announced that £50 million will be given to help people affected by the floods, with families able to claim up to £5,000 each. But Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, warned: “The cost of recovering from these floods will be astronomical.” He added: “The damage to our roads and bridges is severe; we have bridges washed away, roads destroyed, 1000s of tonnes of debris to remove and communities still cut off. The hard fact is that is that recovery is going to be a long process and there’s no doubt that we will need support over the long term.”

Funding for flood defences across England has been cut by more than £100m in the past year. And in October the Committee for Climate Change urged the Government to take action on the growing number of homes at high risk of flooding. Jamie Reed, Labour MP for Copeland, Cumbria, said: “Inadequate government spending on flood defences in the wettest part of the country isn’t understood, isn’t justifiable and isn’t acceptable.” He added: “The government knew that the likelihood of the devastation that flooding can cause would be increased by cuts to flood defence spending. In this knowledge, it went ahead and cut anyway.”