Furious York residents after hundreds of homes engulfed

December 28, 2015 7:10 am

 Around 600 homes and businesses in supposedly safe areas of the city were flooded for the first time in decades. Photo / Getty

Furious York residents last night demanded to know why a key flood
barrier was opened, leaving swathes of the city it was built to protect
under water.
Around 600 homes and businesses in supposedly safe
areas of the city were flooded for the first time in decades when the
River Foss burst its banks following the Boxing Day deluge.
Properties
near the river have been saved from flooding for many years by a £3.3
million ($7.2 million) barrier between the Foss and the River Ouse,
which stops surges of floodwater from topping the river banks.
But
on this occasion, as torrential rain caused a dramatic increase in
river levels, a decision was made to ‘lift’ the barrier – effectively
removing it from the city’s flood defence system when it was most
needed.
The Environment Agency said the problem was caused by the
adjoining pumping station becoming “inundated with flood water” and
disabling some of the electrics inside.

These control the barrier and pumps to contain river levels at times of a flood.
Fearing
all pumps breaking down with the barrier in place – which would have
made it impossible to discharge excess floodwater from the Foss – the
agency took the decision to lift the barrier. But this allowed water
from the Ouse to flood into the Foss, causing its level to rise and its
banks to burst.

Rescue workers evacuate a stranded resident from her home in York city centre. Photo / Getty
Rescue workers evacuate a stranded resident from her home in York city centre. Photo / Getty
Residents wading through ruined houses asked why such a
vital pumping station operating a key component of the city’s £10million
defence system wasn’t better protected.
One resident, Janice
Findlay, said: “We have always felt safe because we have always had that
barrier and this is absolutely shocking because it’s the first time in
36 years that this part of York has flooded.”
Linda Horsman, 64,
who owns two flats in the flood zone with husband Paul, 68, said of the
barrier failure: “It’s stupid and it makes me very angry. We are now
having to face the consequences.”
Council leaders said an investigation into the barrier’s failure would be now carried out.
York
is particularly susceptible to flooding as the rivers Ouse and Foss
join in the centre of the city. It has been hit by regular floods for
centuries and £10 million has been spent on a complex defence system of
barriers, banks and pumps to limit the damage.
The Foss Barrier
was built in 1987 because floodwater from the Ouse was forcing water
back up the Foss and causing it to burst its banks.

A man paddles along flooded streets in York city centre. Photo / Getty
A man paddles along flooded streets in York city centre. Photo / Getty
A 16.5-ton barrier that can be lifted in and out of
position was built to separate the two rivers and isolate the Foss from
the Ouse at times of flood. Eight pumps divert 30 tons of water per
second around the barrier to ensure a continuing flow from the Foss into
the Ouse and keep river levels under control. In 2000 – when 500
properties were flooded and the River Ouse reached the highest ever
recorded level in York – the Foss Barrier was able to protect properties
that yesterday flooded.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency
said last night the barrier could be operating again today. “We are
doing everything we can and making urgent repairs to ensure the pumping
station is operational again as soon as possible and a helicopter will
be airlifting in parts to complete the repairs tomorrow.”
Many residents took to social media to vent their fury at the Foss Barrier shambles.
Gillian
Scott, 50, had been renovating her £180,000 ground floor flat near the
river and preparing to move in when the floods struck. She condemned the
Environment Agency for the devastating damage to supposedly “safe
areas” of the city.
She said: “We have never had to worry about
flooding because the barrier was there to protect these homes. They made
the decision to raise the barrier and that’s why all this has happened.
“I’m very disappointed. It’s totally down to the Environment Agency.”
Andrew
Waller, the city councillor responsible for the environment, admitted:
“We need to sort out the Foss Barrier. The raising of the barrier is the
biggest question we will be raising after the event.”
He said
the pumps at the barrier were due to be replaced but “no immediate
urgency was given to the work” by the Environment Agency.
The city’s mayor Sonja Crisp said immediate action was needed to sort out the problem.
“If it wasn’t fit for purpose then something needs doing and needs doing immediately,” she said.

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