Hundreds flee their homes as Tay bursts its banks

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The Independent Online
CALLS ON the Government to declare parts of Perth and Tayside a disaster zone were made yesterday after central and northern Scotland had a second day of severe flooding.

A combination of winds and torrential rain over the weekend, and thawing after recent heavy snowfalls, caused millions of pounds' worth of damage.

Sir Hector Monro, Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, said yesterday that the Scottish Office would meet 85 per cent of the extra costs incurred by local authorities in trying to deal with the emergency.

The worst conditions were around Perth and Tayside, where hundreds of people evacuated from homes over the weekend learnt that the situation was unlikely to improve before the end of the week. In Perth, the river Tay burst its banks, leaving only the crossbars of football playing fields near the river visible from the air.

At Rose Terrace in the centre of Perth, and at the North Muirton housing estate, the full force of the escaping waters of the Tay were felt. One resident described the evacuation as 'like Dunkirk' with a flotilla of small private boats drafted in to help the official rescue services.

One resident who, like others, was waiting in the first floor of her home early yesterday hoping the water level would fall, was met, she said 'virtually on my stairs by the Army in a small boat who put a lifebelt round me and threw me in their boat'.

Road closures, train cancellations and thousands of homes without power was the repeated pattern around Perth and Tayside.

RAF helicopters used last week to assist those stranded in snow drifts were again out, this time lifting residents from the roofs of flooded villages.

The Tay was estimated to be 20 feet (6.09m) above normal.

Bill Walker, the North Tayside MP who was himself marooned when his Blairgowrie home was cut off by a landslide, renewed a call for the Government to declare parts of the region a disaster area.

He said: 'The situation is desperate and the immediate future looks bleak for thousands of people.'

Michael Malley, a local councillor in North Muirton, said: 'Furniture floating out of windows, cars floating down main streets. The Government have to act, because there is no way the people here can afford to pay for the damage themselves.'