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Flood victims battle to get life back to normal

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 04, 2012

By David Shepherd

  • White goods destroyed by the floods line the streets in Rivermead, Cullompton marcus thompson

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FLOOD victims in Cullompton have been left counting the cost of the damage to their homes in the wake of the storms which saw a month's rainfall in only three days.

Sofas, white appliances, carpets and other items have been dumped in front gardens at Rivermead as more than a foot of water passed through homes on Wednesday, November 21.

Many are now waiting for insurers and surveyors to assess the damage caused to their homes. The cost of repairs has been estimated at as much as £20,000 for each home.

Rivermead resident Michael Seatherton, 63, said: "We have been here ever since the homes were built around 30 years ago but I have never had anything like this, so we have been living upstairs ever since the floods.

"Nobody has formally told us the cost of the damage but people are talking about twenty-odd thousands of pounds. A lot of it was because the drains were blocked and you could see water bubbling out of the manhole covers.

"Downstairs the water was a foot high, from the front of the house through to the back."

Mr Seatherton said water was pouring into his home from the fields at the rear and from the drains at the front. Watermarks have been left just above sockets in the downstairs rooms but he said many possessions were rescued and taken upstairs just in time.

He praised those residents who had a lucky escape for offering hot meals to those whose cookers have been wrecked by the water.

Flood hit residents at Pound Square have also been removing sodden carpets from downstairs rooms. Many of the homes are now being dried with dehumidifiers and heaters.

Resident Michael Delbridge said: "We've lost the whole ground floor, a three-piece suite, a washing machine, a fridge freezer and a cooker, so it's a bit awkward living here now."

Knightswood residents have been praised for their efforts for clearing unblock drains and pumping surface water away themselves.

Some claim South West Water exacerbated the problem by turning off a nearby pumping station, but a spokesperson for the company said this would have had no impact on flooding.

"Rivermead Sewage Pumping Station in Cullompton serves around 20 properties in Rivermead," she said.

"It takes foul only waste from these properties, not surface water.

"One of our contractors was helping evacuate his family from Rivermead after the mill stream burst its banks and flooded the area on the afternoon of November 21. He said the control panels in the pumping station were in danger of being submerged.

"As the pumping station is supplied with 415 volts, he asked our control centre for permission to isolate the power to prevent floodwater causing irreparable damage to the live electrical equipment.

"We were back on site at 8am the next morning. As soon as the floodwater had receded to a low level and we were satisfied that it was safe to do so, we restored the power to the station.

"As the Rivermead estate was evacuated, there would have been minimal sewage being passed to the pumping station. Its operation in no way impacts on water drainage in the area and all flooding in this area was caused by river and surface water, not sewage.

"Knightswood Sewage Pumping Station similarly takes only foul water from properties, not surface water."

The Met Office said 91mm of rain fell over the Culm Valley between November 20 and 23, when 116mm is the average for the whole of November.

Brook Road was also badly hit. Its residents say the culvert at Exeter Road could not cope.

A Devon County Council spokesman said: "We attended a culvert which crosses Exeter Road, near its junction with Brook Road. The culvert has been cleared, however, we intend to investigate this further to see if any consideration could be given to improving the capacity of the system."

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