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'War zone' village of Croston braced for more flooding misery

Published 28/12/2015

A villager clears water from his home in Croston, Lancashire, after flooding in 2012
A villager clears water from his home in Croston, Lancashire, after flooding in 2012

Residents of a Lancashire village remain on high alert after being told they could face further flooding in what they feel is already a "war zone".

Croston was bracing itself for more rain after three severe flood warnings - meaning danger to life - were issued by the Environment Agency, with a high tide warning in place for Monday afternoon.

Residents in properties in Grape Lane, Town Road and Yarrow Close, next to the River Yarrow, are just some of those working against the clock to dispose of sodden furniture.

Some 50 houses remain without power two days on from the Boxing Day carnage.

People have been forced to sleep at the Croston Sports Club which has been turned into makeshift accommodation for those unable to get into their properties, providing warmth, food and some much needed community spirit.

One woman who only moved to the village in October said she no longer wanted to live in her idyllic riverside cottage.

Elaine Ward, 54, and her husband Dave, 55, who run their own business making furniture and wooden gifts, were forced to abandon their home when their garden overlooking the River Yarrow turned into "a swimming pool".

The Army rescued them in a boat as the water seeping into their cottage got deeper.

Mrs Ward said: "The river was running against us like a tsunami. It was chest height and it was freezing. I don't want to live here knowing this is going to happen again. It's like a war zone.

"It came up through the floor, the water was pouring in through the window. I saw a dining room table and two chairs floating past. Within 20 minutes the garden rose. It was so heavy you couldn't get the door open. Everything is just wrecked."

Mr Ward added: "It happened too fast. It's like living in a Third World country but the people here are fantastic, you can't criticise the community spirit.

"The Government have got to look at it - the people who are spending, have they got the intelligence and are they spending it in the right places?"

The couple's neighbours in Town Road have been frantically moving belongings upstairs as mud and sludge filled cupboards and fridges.

Food has had to be thrown away along with white goods, tables and chairs into the steady stream of Chorley Council refuse vans which have been making their way through the village.

Those who have managed to salvage furniture have stacked it on plastic boxes in living rooms and kitchens.

Hair 21 salon owner Ian Hargreaves said he had only been able to start his clean-up operation after the water was pumped away by fire engines - including one privately owned one which offered to help the village.

The 48-year-old, whose business was hit by the floods in 2012, said "It's all gone" as he waded through what was left of his high street shop.

Mr Hargreaves, who did not have insurance due to a £10,000 excess because of the previous flood, said: "We had insurance, then we claimed on that and they didn't want to know us. There was an excess of £10,000 so we didn't bother.

"I'm waiting for the electricity to come on but I'm not doing anything until next week because on Wednesday it is going to rain again."

He added: "The main road through was just like a river and then it stopped being like a river with a flow to it - it was more like a duck pond. Afterwards it was like a war zone."

As residents loaded their Christmas trees into refuse trucks following the Boxing Day floods it became too much for some, who broke down and hugged each another.

In between sweeping the muddy water from their homes, they fell silent as they watched other weary neighbours assess their homes.

Bryn Ashcroft, 56, who installs chimneys and flues and who has lived in the village all his life, said he had never seen flooding like that caused by Storm Eva.

"In 1987 it was bad but this is a lot worse. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. It's everything afterwards - the aftermath."

Villagers were given their first warning at around 1am on Boxing Day when those with telephones received a call notifying them of an amber alert.

But by noon it was a case of rounding up sandbags in an attempt to try to prevent the water from seeping in as the alert changed to red.

Mr Ashcroft said: "Locals have their own ideas but the Environment (Agency) don't listen to us - they pay lots of people instead.

"It never stopped on Boxing Day and then it was too late, the water was in.

"It's been very difficult. People who have never had it done will be worried to death. People are just waiting for it to happen again, they are worried.

"We were on amber alert again last night. But people pull together and we see what sort of community we have. I have been amazed where people have come from to help. It will take months to recover from this."

The Environment Agency said its latest warning to Croston was issued as a precautionary measure.

A spokesman said: "We are currently monitoring water flowing from a breach in the River Douglas Defences north of the railway line and Rufford."

A handful of families and young couples have been forced to abandon their homes and sleep at the Croston Sports Club for the past two nights.

Club secretary Nick Beswick, 41, said the facility was acting as a "headquarters" for villagers who had been caught up in the floods and sought refuge at the club.

Since the flooding, Mr Beswick said they had received donations in the form of food, mattresses, toys and cleaning products, and he and manager Lisa Watkison had been "overwhelmed" at people's generosity.

He said: "This is like the HQ for the local area and we have people co-ordinating activities from here.

"We are providing somewhere for people to sleep and all the stuff here has been donated for the people who don't have access to their properties.

"The response from the village has been wonderful, but not just from the village, we've had guys from Stockport and Coventry who have brought soup."

In the village square, volunteers from Khalsa Aid were also handing out food and drinks to people after learning of the flooded village.

Gopal Singh, 34, who travelled from Huddersfield with his wife Rani, 32, and friend Jarnail Singh, 30, said they, "just wanted to help out".

He added: "The charity goes all around the world to help others. As a Sikh, we believe in serving humanity, do our bit to help out and do our best.

"It's amazing to see the locals helping out and the village coming together as a community.

"Because they are so busy helping people, food is the last thing on their minds. We went to the local temple and made pasta to hand out."

Supermarkets Asda and Booths have also donated supplies.

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