Anxious wait for flood victims

Flooding in Morpeth , September 25th 2012'Ian Johnson
Flooding in Morpeth , September 25th 2012'Ian Johnson

OLDGATE resident Ian Johnson could only watch and wait to see if his home would be swamped by floodwater for a second time.

Mr Johnson and his wife Catherine, known as Kit, were badly hit by the deluge when the River Wansbeck burst its banks in 2008.

The couple, who had no insurance at the time, lost all their possessions in the disaster, and they believe that the trauma of that day led to the death of their beloved budgie, Peter.

It was almost two years before they were able to return to Oldgate, moving next door to their original house — and even closer to the river.

In June 28 this year the waters started to rise again and the couple were fearful of what would follow, but fortunately on that occasion they escaped a flood.

Then, at 5.30am today, they were woken by a neighbour, warning them that the river was swelling again.

Mr Johnson immediately sprang into action, moving everything the pair had, including their new budgie Peter, upstairs or on to kitchen benches, while his wife and their dog Holly went to stay with relatives.

Five hours later, as the water neared its peak, he watched the raging torrent rushing past his living room window, hoping it would not find its way inside.

“It will be under the floorboards now,” he said.

“This is what’s called living beside a river — you expect problems like this.

“We found out that there was a warning because a young girl came to the door, saying there’s going to be a flood, so I started taking everything upstairs. After the last flood we deliberately looked for furniture we could move — my three piece suite comes to bits to get it upstairs. Last time we would have had time to move things, but they were so big we would never have got them upstairs. Everything we have now comes to bits or is small enough to move, that’s a lesson we learnt.”

Mr Johnson remained calm as he waited to find out the fate of his home, but there is anger that there are still no flood defences to protect his property.

“I’m calm now and I was calm the last time because there’s nothing I can do about it, but when are we going to get some flood defences? Why aren’t they doing something?” he said.

“What’s really annoying is they have had four years to sort it out. They have done a lot of surveying, but there are still no flood defences. There has been nothing happening since 2008. Fair enough, they didn’t get the money straight away, but they still could have done the surveys and then been ready to start as soon as the money was there.”

Despite his own precarious situation, Mr Johnson was also concerned about local river life.

“When the water is like this, the ducks can’t feed so please tell everyone to feed the ducks,” he said.

The Johnsons were spared a flood this morning, but now they are watching and waiting for the 7pm peak.