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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Businesses to rescue of storm-hit Carlisle school

A headteacher has praised people for rallying to help after storms ripped part of his school’s roof off.

Austin Friars roof photo

Austin Friars St Monica’s in Etterby, Carlisle, was one of the casualties of strong gales that battered Cumbria, leading to a string of crashes and cutting power to 10,000 homes at their peak.

Part of the roof at the fee-paying school’s kitchen building came off early on Thursday morning.

Shocked staff started an emergency operation to ensure everyone stayed safe.

And they were impressed by the response – with a bakery business stepping in quickly to ensure that no-one went hungry at lunchtime and another business offering its premises to ensure that a social function could go ahead.

Headteacher Matt Harris said: “Initial concerns were for the safety of all the pupils and staff and thankfully we are able to report that no-one was injured.

“We then had to establish if it was safe to keep the school open. After a number of phone calls to businesses we were heartened by the response that we received.

“Border Construction were quick to take action and were on site within minutes to begin making the area safe. Further phone calls were made to secure lunches for nearly 500 people – not an easy task at such short notice.

“Thankfully, Gretna Bakery rose to the challenge, providing sandwiches and hot pies which, along with sandwiches prepared by the school’s own kitchen staff, were served to pupils and staff.”

The kitchen damage also cast doubt on whether the school’s annual rugby dinner, which was due to be held on Saturday, could go ahead.

Staff reluctantly ruled it would have to be cancelled – only for management at Walby Farm Park, on the outskirts of Carlisle, to offer their premises.

Temporary kitchens have been put in place by Chris Irving of Portable Kitchens, so hot meals can be cooked again from today.

Thankfully, the school’s production of West Side Story, being staged in another part of the complex, has been unaffected.

At the peak of the storms problems on Thursday police dealt with more than 100 weather-related incidents, ranging from blown over lorries on the M6 to trees falling and blocking roads.

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