County ‘slow’ to react to warning signs

THE lead authority’s response to flooding in Morpeth has been criticised for being ‘too slow’.

Alan Bell, Chairman of the Morpeth Flood Action Group and a flood warden, believes that Northumberland County Council should have had teams in place to get people out of their homes in High Stanners in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Warnings were issued to residents at about 4am, but it took another three hours before evacuations took place via boat.

Mr Bell said: “When we (flood wardens) got to High Stanners, there were two people from the Environment Agency and two police officers there, but no-one from the county council was present.

“We were told to knock on doors and warn people, but by the time the council sent some people down there at around 6am, Oldgate Bridge was closed and the Curly Kews bank way was blocked as a tree fell onto the road.

“It was too slow to respond and surely if officers knew about the flood risk, they could have had a minibus on standby and got residents out of their homes much earlier and avoided having to use the boats.”

A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said the authority and the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) worked in partnership with Northumbria Police, the Environment Agency and other organisations in response to the emergency situation.

“Neighbourhood services teams had begun stepping up the clearance of gullies and removing debris from drains and run-off channels throughout Monday,” she said.

“The first surface water removal began at 8pm until 10pm on Monday night.

“The Northumberland Flood Action Plan, published following floods in Morpeth and across the county in September 2008, was put into action and the operations room at West Hartford Community Fire Station and Headquarters opened at 10pm on Monday.

“The situation was monitored closely throughout Monday night.

“The first response with a gully tanker and road sweeper was at Clifton at 1am Tuesday morning, with further responses beginning at 4am in and around the Morpeth area, removing debris and surface water.

“A total of 90 tonnes of sandbags were prepared and distributed to locations across the county.

“A rest centre was opened in King Edward VI School from 7am and Morpeth Town Hall was also used as a base. A total of 37 residents from High Stanners were evacuated from properties by NFRS swift water rescue teams, which were established in response to the 2008 floods.”