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Lack of sandbags made Newlyn flood damage worse: councillor

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

  • Floods at Newlyn, Cornwall

  • Members of the Cornwall Search and Rescue Team at work in flooded Newlyn. Mike Newman/ocean-image.com

  • Members of the Cornwall Search & Rescue Team

  • A torrent of floodwater pours down a hill at Newlyn. Mike Newman/ ocean-image.com

  • Saturday night revellers return to Newlyn across the flood waters.

  • Flooding in Newlyn on Saturday, November 24, 2012. Picture: John Betts.

  • Boxes of books, clothes and other household goods that were stored on the floor in the charity shop had to be thrown away.

  • On Sunday the water under the Meadery bridge was still running high.

  • Annie Metcalfe, Trevelyan Drew, Talwyn Drew, Julyan Drew, Liz Liston and Tremaen Drew clean up the mess in the charity shop.

  • The Jehu family working together to try and salvage what they can from flood-hit Auntie May's.

  • Flooding in Newlyn on Saturday, November 24, 2012. Picture: Jon Betts.

  • Shop-owner Donald Gregor busy on Sunday morning trying to clean up the muddy mess left by floodwaters. "I'm not insured because I only set the business up three weeks ago," he said, "so I was really testing the market with what I was selling."

  • Newlyn Co-op was flooded and forced to close by about 9pm on Saturday. A spokeswoman said staff took the initiative to move much of the stock to a higher level and worked with firefighters to clear the shop when water came in. 'The team then worked hard on Sunday morning to prepare for reopening, with several staff coming in on their days off, and the store was able to open at 1pm with business as usual,' she said. 'We apologise to customers for any inconvenience, and thank the store team for their hard work and commitment in challenging circumstances.'

  • Newlyn flooded with fire crew pumping.

  • The Newlyn Coombe river burst its banks, inundating the area. Phil Monckton/CIOSP

  • Parked at the CFPO building in Newlyn.

  • The river a torrent at Newlyn bridge.

  • Is fast better? Is slow better? A driver fords Newlyn crossroads. Phil Monckton/CIOSP

  • Mrs Jeanette Hoblyn sweeps water from her cottage garden.

  • Mr and Mrs Hoblyn sweep water from the garden of Newlyn Cottage. Mike Newman. ocean-image.com

  • Mr & Mrs Hoblyn, Newlyn Cottage, Newlyn, smiling despite the chaos.

  • Flooding in Newlyn. Mike Newman. ocean-image.com

  • Flooding in Newlyn on Saturday, November 24, 2012. Picture: Jon Betts.

  • Flooding in Newlyn on Saturday, November 24, 2012. Picture: Jon Betts.

  • On Monday morning parts of Tregeseal, St Just, were still under water.

  • St Just firefighters Edward Redwood, Darren Pickhaver, Danny Menear and watch manager Paul Webber work to divert the water in Tregeseal on Monday morning.

  • On Monday morning parts of Tregeseal, St Just, were still under water.

  • Zoe Mummery and Colin Jefferies mop up in the barber's shop after the flood.

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FLOODING that hit more than a dozen Newlyn businesses and homes over the weekend might not have caused such devastation had people had access to sandbags, it has been claimed.

On Saturday night, following hours of torrential rain, the Newlyn Coombe river broke its banks, sending a muddy deluge into nearby properties.

By 10pm the area in front of the Fishermen's Mission was about 2ft deep in water.

"All I could think of was Boscastle," said one shop-owner. "It wasn't as bad as that, but it was like rapids through the streets, and towards the middle it got more intense.

"The river backed up and was going over Newlyn Meadery bridge, flooding the road where the crossroads join.

"It was coming down from there and down Paul Hill so that triangle was where it was worst."

Businesses affected included the Co-op, the Swordfish, whose cellar was flooded, the charity shop and Auntie May's café, and locals arrived on Sunday to help salvage what they could.

In the charity shop, boxes of clothes, books and magazines that were on the floor had to be thrown out, and Methodist minister Julyan Drew had six volunteers lending a hand.

"Some are my family; others just walked past and wanted to help," he said.

"There was nothing you could do about it; the water was just there and it was a case of if you could see something to save, you did. Anything that was on the floor is water- damaged and you don't know what was in the water, so it wouldn't help to dry it out.

"We'll have to chuck quite a bit of the stock. It's all been given to us and it's a shame."

Firefighters were also on the scene evacuating people from the flats above the Co-op.

The Jehu family, who live in Redruth and own Auntie May's, arrived on Sunday morning to a scene of devastation. Linda, husband Robert and three children worked together to clear up the mess.

Linda said: "It's quite devastating. Lilly said to me this morning, 'Mummy, I'll eat whatever you put in front of me now because we're going to be really poor'.

"The kids have been brilliant. They've come in and are helping.

"It's a family business."

With the chillers and freezers out of action, the café is likely to be closed for the foreseeable future, and is not the only business that will be feeling the effects of the flooding for months to come.

Roger Harding, Cornwall councillor for Newlyn and Mousehole, said some of the damage, running into thousands of pounds, could have been avoided had sandbags been available and that the council's phone lines had been tied up all night, making it impossible to call for them.


"If sandbags were available it would have helped quite a lot of premises that were flooded," he said. "In the days of Penwith District Council we'd have kept 600 in stock, and they used to deliver 150 to Newlyn.

"People could take them and put them where they were needed, whereas now you just couldn't raise the alarm to get the sandbags and there weren't the required tools there."

Mario Fonk, Cornwall councillor for Gulval and Heamoor, said he agreed with Mr Harding and was planning to raise the matter at the council's next meeting.

"People have been full of praise for the emergency services – they did a great job in clearing blockages and pumping water – but a lot of properties might not have been so badly flooded if they'd sandbags on hand.

"What's needed is strategically placed points where people can collect sandbags in emergencies."

St Ives MP Andrew George said he was surprised people in high-risk areas were not offered sandbags in advance.

"I'll urge the local authority to review its policy and consider offering a mobile sandbag loan service when the Environment Agency warning reaches a particular designated level," he said.

A spokeswoman for the council, which received more than 1,600 calls over the weekend, said: "The authority does not have a statutory duty to provide sandbags and will only supply them free of charge on a 'needs' basis in response to unforeseen flooding emergencies. We will not supply sandbags in advance based on forecasts.

"If requests for supply or delivery are received during an emergency situation, we will consider them sympathetically on a case-by-case basis according to apparent vulnerability. For out-of-hours events, the decision will be made by the appropriate duty officer."

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