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Fire crews hailed for 'magnificent' flood rescue efforts

Published 28/12/2015

The River Irwell
The River Irwell

Firefighters have been praised for rescuing around 1,000 people from floods as water levels rose rapidly in less than 24 hours.

Crews from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service waded waist-deep in freezing water for up to seven hours to rescue pregnant women, elderly people in care homes and children when towns in the area were cut off.

At the height of Sunday's floods - which were declared a major incident for Greater Manchester - more than 35 fire engines were out dealing with incidents.

The crews were described as responding "magnificently" by Fire Authority chairman David Acton as they worked alongside an army of local people who all rallied together to help.

Scenes included one man swimming across his living room in order to try to retrieve his slippers, while Christmas presents could be seen floating from homes.

In Broughton Lane in the Lower Broughton area of Salford, 47 people had to be rescued from a caravan site affected by rising water, including four from a car stranded in the water.

Mr Acton said: "Off-duty firefighters spending time at home with their families for Christmas came in to support the effort and relieve tired colleagues, some of whom had been wading through water for eight hours solid.

"We are a highly professional service and we have responded magnificently but we were stretched and I was pleased to see others - including Government - recognise the wonderful job carried out by our crew yesterday."

In Riverside Drive in Radcliffe, 40 homes were evacuated by the boat team and mountain rescue, and in Selby Close 100 people stranded by waist-high water were rescued.

Hundreds more were rescued after they were marooned as the bridge over the River Irwell was breached.

Moments later the town was rocked by a gas explosion when another bridge gave way, ripping out a mains supply, which then caught light.

County Fire Officer Peter O'Reilly said: "There were many, many calls from individuals just looking for help as water poured into their homes, damaging electrics and power supplies as well as belongings and personal possessions.

"Crew reported seeing people's Christmas presents and other things floating out of their homes. One man was swimming across his living room trying to retrieve his slippers.

"But there were many, many tales of people rallying together too. We had people bringing 4x4 vehicles, tractors with flatbed trailers and even boats to incidents to help us. We couldn't have done it without them and would like to thank each and every person who came out of their homes to help."

Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said the situation had brought out "the best" in people.

He said: "When you need public services, you really need them and yesterday we really needed everyone in the fire and rescue service.

"There were hundreds and thousands of people who were worried and distressed - be it about their homes or family members or themselves. There's no doubt these situations bring out the best in people and it's people like you who make this world a better place."

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