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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Clean up operation after floods hit west Cumbria

People have spent Christmas cleaning up the aftermath of flooding in parts of west Cumbria.

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Surveying the damage: Stephen Murray and Andy Skelton after lightning struck house

There was severe flooding in Whitehaven and Distington  following heavy rain overnight into Christmas Eve.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service received more than 40 emergency callsand dispatched 11 fire engines to various locations, with vehicles called in from Wigton, Aspatria, Maryport, Workington, Whitehaven, Frizington and Cockermouth.

Those worst affected have spent the start of their Christmas break cleaning up.

During the night on Monday, a number of properties in west Cumbria were flooded, with water reported to be four feet deep in some areas.

Adrian Holme, of Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, described it as a "very challenging night" for fire crews.

Water flooded down Whitehaven's Tangier Street, forcing police to close the road.

Grant Atkinson, who lives in a flat on the street, said that before the road was closed, the traffic driving through created a "wave effect", pushing water further into the properties.

Outside of the Shipwrights pub and Wetherspoon, water had gathered forming a lake.

Orgill, at Egremont was also badly affected, with floodwater running down the streets. Dozens of people gathered to help with the clean-up and stop water from swamping people’s homes.

John Bond, from Whitehaven Rugby Union Club, rushed to the ground around 11pm last night to find it under water.

It was as far up as the cellar door and just millimetres from the front door of the clubhouse.

Mr Bond said: “We have three drains out the front – I managed to find two of them to open up and one round the back and I was there until about 2am once the water levels had dropped.”

On Sunday organisers of a music festival, which was due to be held in a marquee at the ground on Boxing Day, was cancelled after Saturday’s heavy downpour.

The Environment Agency have issued six warnings for the north west of England, five of which are in Cumbria.

They include warnings for the River Eamont, the River Caldew at Cummersdale, near Carlisle, and the River Eden at Rickerby Park, Carlisle.

Warnings are also in place for the River Ehen at areas surrounding Egremont, and a warning issued for Keswick Campsite four days ago is still in effect.

Police are urging people to stay away from fast-flowing rivers and lakes following the incident in the River Rothay at Ambleside.

They say they received a report of a man falling into the water at 2.25pm, prompting them to launch a search.

Police, fire, Coastguard, RAF, mountain rescuers and lake wardens were all involved. They have now confirmed that a body has been found. The man was pronounced dead at the scenes.

A Cumbria Police spokeswoman said that the body is that of a 48-year-old man from the Hest Bank area of Lancaster, although formal identification has not yet taken place.

The man and his dog were both seen in the river at 2.25pm, but the man was swept away by fast-moving water. His body was found an hour later, while the dog managed to escape from the water.

The incident is being treated as an accident.

The Met Office said heavy rain was due to return and high winds to appear tomorrow after conditions that had earlier seen roads closed and emergency services deployed.

Police received 110 reports of flooding on Saturday and a number of homes were hit by floodwater.

Major routes such as the A595 and A596 were affected in stretches and parts of Rickerby Park in Carlisle flooded, with the nearby road to Great Corby shut.

Today Virgin Trains said that because of inclement weather, people travelling on all services between England and Scotland should expect delays and disruption.

A Network Rail 50mph speed restriction is in place between Preston and the Scottish border from 8am until 4pm.

In west Cumbria a family had a lucky escape when lightning struck their house, causing a fire.

Stephen and Caroline Murray were at their home, Stockmoor Hall at Broughton Moor, with Caroline’s son Andy Skelton and his fiancée Antonia Gartland when the lightning hit around 4.40pm on Saturday.

Fortunately for the family, who would usually be in the kitchen, Caroline was laid up with a bad back.

They were in the room above the kitchen when the storm came.

Mr Skelton, 30, of Maryport, said: “It was like the loudest firework you’ve ever heard.”

Mr Murray, 63, said: “It was like a bomb.”

Mrs Murray, 58, added: “It was terrifying. We were in darkness in the smoke and the alarms were going crazy.”

The strike blasted a hole in the house, damaged walls and windows, blew electrical sockets off walls, set fire to wall insulation and sent debris flying.

Stephen had put out the fire with pans of water by the time firefighters arrived.

The blast blew the electrics in the house, leaving the couple using a generator, and affected a telephone junction box nearby, leaving homes without service.

Police warned people at the weekend not to travel unless necessary. The fire service said it helped pump out flooded properties, divert water away from homes and clear blocked drains. Roads or places affected or closed at the weekend included Arkleby Road in Aspatria; Hayton, near Aspatria; Main Road in Seaton, Workington; Briscoe Crescent, Esk Avenue and Coach Road in Whitehaven; Common End, Distington; Gilgarren, near Cockermouth and the road between Broughton Moor and Dovenby.

The A596 was also closed between King Street in Wigton and the Thursby roundabout.

The train line between Carlisle and west Cumbria was closed on Saturday because of flooding.

The line was blocked at Harrington, Workington, because of a landslide and services were cancelled.

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