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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Cumbria counts the cost of flood chaos

A company that bounced back after coming within minutes of financial collapse is now facing a major clean-up operation.

Stead McAlpin flood photo
Flood waters at the Stead McAlpin factory at Cummersdale

Related: Storms bring flood chaos to Cumbria

High-end fabric print factory Stead McAlpin at Cummersdale was filled with sludge and filthy water when the River Caldew broke its banks on Friday, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage and leading to lost production time.

Manager Mark Bradley described the flooding as the “worst thing” that had happened in his 20 years at the factory. “I felt like Canute holding back the waves”, he said. He also claimed that the city’s flood defences appeared to have moved the problem upstream, channelling water to a head at the factory.

But the Environment Agency said: “The Lakeland fells, which feed the River Caldew, experienced a month's worth of rain over the weekend. This resulted in the highest recorded flood levels on the River Caldew as it passes through Carlisle, half a metre higher than those recorded in 2005.

“The flood defences, which end at Holmehead Weir, protected around 3,500 people in Carlisle. Upstream from this sits a natural flood plain, on which the Stead McAlpin factory is situated. Sadly the factory was affected by these unprecedented floods and we were able to work with them over the weekend to warn them of the flooding and keep them informed."

Loss adjusters are due to come to the factory today to assess the extent of the damage to machines and textiles.

The factory floor was yesterday covered in silt, stinking mud and fabric dye.

However, with staff working hard to rinse away the silt and load up skips, Mr Bradley hopes the factory will be operational within a week.

“But I don’t have a crystal ball” he added.

The extent of the damage to the textile machines will only become clear when they are tested later today.

The main priorities, he said, were cleaning the factory and getting the electrical team in to test the motors.

Staff had worked through the night to salvage that millions of pounds worth of high-end fabric, placing out of reach of the floods. And Stead McAlpin was not the only major casualty of the floods.

For Carlisle residents, rising river levels awakened flood fears and memories of 2005 when large parts of Denton Holme were inundated.

Pamela Daniels, 73, of Milbourne Street said her house had been flooded up to her windows in 2005 and had to be rescued by boat from out of her front door.

City councillor Elsie Martlew, whose house is on the river bank, praised the city’s £30 million flood defences. She said: “The river was over the wall on the Caldew Maltings but the flood defences protected the properties down there.

“More water came down [the Caldew] than in 2005.

“The flood defences were essential to the houses and industries in Denton Holme and in Caldewgate.

“They worked marvellously, it was remarkable.

“Staff from the Environment Agency came around in the early hours of Saturday morning and erected all the flood barriers so we were 100 per cent protected.”

She added that major employers McVitie’s, which were flooded in 2005, and the site of the new Sainsbury’s had also been protected. But the area did not escape unscathed.

On Devonshire Walk a retaining wall on the railway line collapsed when the Caldew was in spate, bringing down a stanchion which fell into the river. Mrs Martlew said she had been concerned that it could have broken the mains sewer pipes. The stanchion is embedded in the river at an angle. Councillor Martlew added that it was now up to Network Rail to retrieve or secure it before any damage was done.

It is also understood that Bog Bridge leading up to Breconhill at Raughton Head has been completely swept away.

The weather also caused disruption to rail services.

Trains between Maryport and Carlisle were still suspended this morning due to flooding at Wigton and Dalston.

Network Rail had put on a replacement bus service, with hours taking up to an hour longer than usual. Trains north of Carlisle have resumed a normal service after they were cancelled due to flooding. But this may not be the end of the flood nightmare, forecasters have warned, with flash flooding expected in central and northern areas. Although the week will get off to a dry start, torrential downpours to return on Thursday.

With much of the ground already saturated after a month of wet weather, the flood risk will be even higher when the rains return, forecasters have warned.

They have also predicted that this could one of the wettest Junes on record.

Have your say

Janice, I live in a flood zone and managed to get very competetive insurance via a broker in Carlisle. I moved into the property after it had flooded so had no existing cover to rely on but it wasn't a problem once the broker became involved.

Posted by Helen on 18 July 2012 at 09:05

Malcom- it is a waste of time asking for a flood certificate. All insurers are interested in is are you in a flood risk area. My post code is and even though I have never claimed and my property has never flooded I am unable to get insurance other than renew with my existing provider. I am now paying three times more than I did 7 years ago even though I have the maximum no claims. The insurers have various different criteria such as not insuring properties that are a mile within flooded properties or not insuring those properties that are less than 400metres from a river. None of the insurers give two hoots if you have flood defences protecting you. I would have no issue with a big flood excess as I know the chances of my property flooding are slim. But every insurer I have contacted (quite a few!) just refuse to provide a quote. Would love to know how others classed as 'flood risk' are managing to get insurance.

Posted by Janice on 25 June 2012 at 21:40

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