11th July 2012
AXMINSTER: Flood chaos
River Axe at 'life threatening' levels - elderly residents evacuated
WITH East Devon put on Red Alert by the Met Office after a month’s worth of rain fell in a day, Axminster suffered “life threatening” flooding over the weekend with some elderly residents having to be evacuated from their homes, writes ANDERS LARSSON
At one time, the Environment Agency said the level of the River Axe was so high that “lives were at risk”.
Prolonged and ferocious rain overnight continued to hammer down on the Saturday and many householders were forced to flee their flooded homes.
At times, the town resembled the set of a disaster movie as rescuers tried to reach stranded people, with a cacophony of emergency service sirens blaring in the background and a helicopter hovering above.
At Willhayes Park an elderly man with a broken arm was rescued by firefighters, with 3ft of water in his home.
A spokesperson for the fire and rescue service said: “In total, 20 mainly elderly residents were rescued from the street and taken initially to Axminster Fire Station.”
Firefighters also rescued two people caught in flood water in Trafalgar Way.
The exact number of flooded properties is not known but the Purzebrook area of Musbury Road, The Cricketers, Willhayes Lane, the Stoney Bridge area and Weycroft were all seriously affected.
Rail services through Axminster were suspended and are not expected to return to normal until Wednesday this week.
The most recent bulletin from South West Trains said that a limited rail service is operating between Exeter and Honiton, backed up by a direct bus service between Exeter St David’s and Yeovil Junction.
Buses are replacing trains in both directions from Axminster.
Devon County Council was also among victims as its nominated rescue centre, the main hall at Axe Valley Community College, was flooded.
College site manager Robin Cross said: “We have four inches of water inside the building. The rescue centre needs rescuing.
“It ain’t gonna be a five-minute job.”
An alternative centre was opened in the nearby Axe Valley Leisure Centre.
But it was closed down relatively early as those who had sought refuge were accommodated with family and friends, at the Fairwater Head Hotel near Hawkcghurch and the Silverleigh residential care in Silver Street, Axminstee.
Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre was also flooded.
Axminster mayor Andrew Moulding, who is cosely connected with Cloakham, said “Our indoor bowls hall looked like a swimming pool.”
He also explained that the new all-weather area and cricket nets were covered in sludge and may need replacing.
He praised everyone who had helped out around town on the day.
Looking forward, he said: “We shall be calling for some government assistance regarding looking for flood defences.”
For Musbury Road residents Terri and Flynn Thornhill, it was a case of deja vu.
Not too long ago, Terri was photographed in Pulman’s Views throwing out soaked carpets after a previous flood.
On Saturday they realised they were in trouble at about 8.30am.
The front of their ground floor quickly flooded and Terri said: “We are depressed and soul-destroyed.
“The fire brigade will pump us out and we’ll stay put and start the cleaning process when the rain stops.
“The district council must make the drains bigger for us.”
Town councillor and former Axminster mayor Mervyn Symes went from one disaster area to another and said: “I don’t think we have had it as bad as this for 30 years.”
He was quick to praise the community spirit showed around town.
At Chard Road’s junction with Millwey Rise Industrial Estate, a team of residents produced a makeshift ‘Road Closed’ sign to stop drivers from carrying on and hitting a dead end at Weycroft.
Among those helping out were Pippa Ellis, Charlotte Windsor and Gaynor Goodhew.
Pippa said: “If everyone went down there, there would be even more chaos.”
PICTURE 1: NOT AGAIN! - Terri and Flynn Thornhill in Musbury Road after their home was flooded for a second time in recent times
PICTURE 2: Cottages at Abbey Gate, just outisde Axminster, with their gardens underwater at lunchtime on Saturday
PICTURE 3: A makeshift diversion to prevent traffic going towards Weycroft in Chard Road, Axminster, manned by Pippa Ellis and Charlotte Windsor with some young helpers
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