UK weather: Surrey gets first reports of thieves stealing sandbags
'Callous' thieves have been removing vital flood defences
Paul Gallagher is a reporter for the Independent and Independent on Sunday having joined the group in 2012. He has previously worked for the European Voice, Daily Mirror and the Observer and been based in Brussels, Belfast, Tokyo and London.
Tuesday 11 February 2014
Sadness and dismay among some of those worst hit by the floods in Surrey turned to rage on Tuesday as the first reports of thieves stealing and attempting to sell army-issued sandbags emerged.
Staff at the Red Lion Hotel, separated from the floods by a few metres, spoke of their amazement as men arrived in an overloaded white transit van around midday and came into their bar looking to offload their loot.
"They didn't get a chance to tell us a price as we told them exactly where to go," said manager Danielle Emptage. "Some people are disgusting. If it's not tied down they'll have it."
Fellow manager Paul Newman was also critical of local Spelthorne Borough Council for refusing their request for sandbags. "We were flatly denied because they told us we are a commercial organisation. We just want look after our community but the council won't look after us."
Emotions were running high elsewhere in town as news of the "callous" act spread.
Retired Patrick Collins, enjoying a drink at The Three Horseshoes in his chest high waders as he has to get through 14 inches of water a few metres from his home, said: "Stealing sandbags is totally callous. I hope the police bloody well catch them."
Dr James Andrews was stranded in his home without electricity
Meanwhile, an elderly doctor was finally rescued from his flooded home in Shepperton on Tuesday night after being without electricity for three days.
Retired physician Dr James Andrews and his personal assistant Wendy Kinchella were pulled to safety in a dinghy along Felix Lane by a team of local sea and marine cadets as night set in at the Surrey town hit hard by burst banks along both the Thames and Ash.
"We just want to get somewhere warm," said Ms Kinchella, thanking the "marvellous" team as she jumped into the back of their truck."Poor Dr Andrews has been without any power since Sunday."
Homes and businesses in Shepperton continue to be badly hit by the extraordinary weather, with levels expected to remain at current height for up to 15 days.
Antique dealer Edward Cruttenden recently lost his mother and was about to sell her home until the deluge. He did not want to talk about it but a friend said he has had to put four pumps in to flush out the water that has now cascaded in and feared for the value.
A Land Rover drives along a flooded street in Shepperton (Getty)
Charity shop worker Pamela Bridgeman said her 78-year-old friend Dorothy Daniels had to be rescued by police at 4am on Tuesday as the entire mobile home complex, one of the largest in the country, at Penton Park was flooded in a few hours.
"Her son Ian came from Hampshire to collect her and take Dot home with him. Her garden has been flooded twice in the last two years and I just think the owners, Berkeley Homes, should have done more."
The war memorial roundabout separating old and new Shepperton was under threat from the rising levels on Tuesday. Looking on, retired Shepperton master baker Brian Holt remained stoic in the face of growing adversity.
"The last time the memorial was flooded was 1947. But although it's extreme weather, it's not as bad today. I remember cycling through water during my paper round in the 1960s.
"Dredging would have helped, but we'll get through this."
Alison Gordon, events director at the Warren Lodge and Anchor Hotel in Old Shepperton, had to close off a section of her hotel on Tuesday after the route through the garden to the riverside rooms became submerged.
Sandbags to stop flooding at the Warren Lodge Hotel in Shepperton (Charlie Forgham-Bailey)
"We've had a wedding cancellation on Friday because the church is under water and they didn't think all the guests could get through," she said. "But I'm sure they will re-book. We're keeping a close eye on the back though as if it rises another couple of inches the water will start coming into the rooms."
Despite the troubles, there is a definite sense of community spirit in the air. Back in Felix Lane, Daikon service manager Scott Dorrall had just kitted himself out in his new inflatable life jacket when The Independent spoke to him as he waded back home passed the heavily flooded Holiday Inn next to the marina.
"I got his and hers jackets for me and the wife," he smiled. "From the canoe shop on the corner, £33 each. I told the guy why we needed them given how bad it is and got a 10 per cent discount. I've never seen anything like it but everyone is trying to help each other where they can."
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