Search for missing policeman hit by ‘horrendous’ weather

Author: Press Association

A lifeboat helping in the search in the sea off Workington, in Cumbria, was
forced to turn back after three hours because the weather was so bad.

Four bridges collapsed, main roads were blocked, schools were closed and more
than 200 people were forced to leave their homes in nearby Cockermouth
overnight after the deluge struck.

The missing police officer disappeared after Northside bridge over the river
Derwent, on one of the main routes into Workington, collapsed.

RNLI lifeboat operations manager Captain Brian Ashbridge said: “There is
a massive current coming down through the Derwent so, although the sea isn’t
very rough, conditions for the RNLI volunteers searching in the river basin
have been very challenging.

“It’s absolutely horrendous. There is a huge amount of debris around in
the water at the moment as well, which adds to the difficulties.”

Cockermouth appears to be worst hit, with both rivers running through the town
bursting their banks.

Residents said they feared more rain tonight would bring more floods.

Alan Smith said: “The thing with the River Cocker is it can fall as
quickly as it can rise.

“It’s come down four foot from last night but the fells are sodden and if
we get any more rain, it will just come straight off and into the river and
the level will rise again.

“If we have persistent rain like last night and the day before, we will
be back to square one.”

Families were being rescued from the floods in the town this morning.

Dinah Cooper, 80, and her son William were saved from their home on Croftside,
one of the worst-hit streets.

Mr Cooper said he has lost all of his possessions but is just glad that his
family are safe.

His wife Helen said: “My husband and mother-in-law were stuck in the
house but me and my daughter were safe because I went to pick her up from
school yesterday and when I came back I couldn’t get back into my house. The
whole road was cut off.

“We’ve been so worried because they were stranded there overnight. We’ve
got nothing left but the clothes we are standing in but I am so happy to see
them safe.”

Workington MP Tony Cunningham said the flood was “of biblical proportions”,
seen only “once every 1,000 years”.

The Labour MP told Sky News: “The scale and the force of the devastation
in Cockermouth is huge.”

Mr Cunningham said it would have taken great force to destroy the Northside
Bridge in Workington.

He said: “I went down to the bridge last night and I’ve never seen the
River Derwent as wide as it was.

“The force of the river was absolutely incredible. This is a stone
bridge. To wash away a bridge of that size and dimension is incredible.”

Michael Dunn, manager of the Bitter End pub in Cockermouth, said the town
would not recover until next year.

He said: “This is a tourist town as well so it will hit very hard.

“It has devastated the town. There is a lot of properties in Main Street,
private shops, that have had their windows smashed in by the force of the
water and by debris in the water.

“There were cars floating down the street.

“It will be a long time before Cockermouth recovers from this.”

The Environment Agency said the rainfall over Cumbria reached record levels.

The agency’s gauging station at Seathwaite Farm recorded 314.4mm (12.3 inches)
in 24 hours up to 00.45am – a record for England.

Evacuated residents spent last night in emergency reception centres at
Cockermouth Secondary School, Keswick Convention Centre, Ulverston Victoria
Hall School, Penrith Leisure Centre and St Joseph’s Secondary School in
Workington.

Rescue services from Gloucestershire, which was devastated by floods in 2007,
have rushed to the aid of their Cumbrian counterparts.

Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service deployed two hovercrafts to Cumbria,
offering them to the county’s chief fire officer Dominic Harrison.

RAF search and rescue helicopters and mountain rescue teams were still at the
scene today and house-to-house searches were being carried out to make sure
people who needed to be evacuated were safe.

Members of the RAF Regiment are also in the town helping with the clean-up.

An AA spokesman warned drivers against getting behind the wheel unless it was
necessary.

He said: “To be blunt, people really have to respect the weather and stay at
home, if practical, and avoid driving in the flooded areas.

“We’re still going out to people getting stuck after ignoring road closures
and driving into flood water. This is foolhardy and puts them at risk, as
well as tying up the resources of the emergency services, which are already
stretched.

“Already, there’s a lot of sewage and debris in the flood water and manhole
covers can get dislodged, so you really don’t know what hazards you’re
stepping into, or what diseases you might catch. The water can move
deceptively quickly too, so you could get swept away.”

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