UK flooding: Strange sight of submerged Leeds prompts some unusual behaviour

The Environment Agency has issued no less than eight severe flood warnings across the city

Dean Kirby
Sunday 27 December 2015 23:33 GMT
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Two men take a rest on an abandoned sofa in a flooded street

With huge swathes of Leeds submerged beneath the flood water, two men waded knee-deep towards a settee stranded amid the mire and promptly sat down for a rest.

“All I need now,” one shouted to his friends standing at the dry end of the street, “is a can of lager and a packet of crisps.” The men were then seen pulling a bathtub from a flooded showroom and squelching away, soaking wet, before a police car arrived.

Such was the strangeness of seeing one of Britain’s foremost cities so badly swamped that it caused some people to do extraordinary things.

A motorcyclist was earlier seen trying to ride through the same stretch of water in a side street off Kirkstall Road, one of the main routes through Leeds, before coming to an abrupt halt halfway across.

Overnight, the River Aire had risen to a record height of nearly 3 metres and had burst its banks. The Environment Agency issued no less than eight severe flood warnings across the city, where there was a threat of danger to life.

The river was still raging at Kirkstall today, where families could be seen taking photographs from a half-submerged bridge just inches above the torrent. In the background could be seen a vast network of industrial units and business premises that were now under water.

“I’ve lived in Leeds all my life,” said Eric Lister, 75, who was looking at the scene. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s shocking to see the city so badly flooded. It’s scary really.”

Walking into town from the safety of a canal bank showed where the river below had burst its banks. Trees had been felled and were lying on their sides in the water and sludge covered the yard of a bus depot after it had earlier been flooded.

In the heart of the city, residents looked out from apartment balconies while restaurant and bar owners in Dock Street were pumping water from their flooded cellars.

Riccardo Roversi had spent the day trying to clear water from the cellar at Ciao Bella restaurant after the river seeped in through the walls. He had just had a visit from Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn. “It was like a scene from Titanic when I went down into the cellar,” he said. “The fridges were floating around. All the stock has been ruined, but what can you do? We’ve been pumping out the water now for four hours, but there is still a long way to go.”

Staff at the nearby Adelphi pub, which had sandbags at the door, were also trying to clear water from their cellar and at the Simpson’s Fold apartment complex, manager Andrew Donoghue was sweeping water from the underground carpark, where two cars had been flooded.

“There were fish swimming around down here when we arrived,” he said. “But they’ve escaped down the drains. It’s just shocking.”

In Bridge End, staff at Khan’s Cuisine kebab shop were now struggling to get ready for the evening takeaway orders after the flood knocked out the electricity.

Cooks were preparing onions using makeshift lights powered by car batteries and owner Mehrban Khan was planning to use a gas cylinder to power the cooker.

“Most of the stock is ruined and the damage will run into thousands of pounds,” he said. “Our customers are making orders and we’re trying to get them out.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we’re doing our best.”

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