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Churches mobilise in response to floods

11 November 2019


A tractor transports residents through floodwater in Fishlake, near Doncaster, on Monday

A tractor transports residents through floodwater in Fishlake, near Doncaster, on Monday

ST CUTHBERT’s, Fishlake, near Doncaster, has been a “focal point” for the response to severe floods that struck late on Friday night when the River Don burst its banks.

The churchwarden of St Cuthbert’s, Peter Pridham, said on Monday: “It’s been a pretty traumatic experience. It [the river] just exploded like a tidal wave into the village. It’s a great mercy that no one was killed. Half the village evacuated, but the rest of us simply refused to go. No more help was being offered by Doncaster Council, and there has been quite a bit of looting; so we decided, as a community, to stay put and fight it out.

“The church has acted as a focal point for that; we have kept it open 24/7 since early Friday evening. The police have used it as a place of respite, with hot water, and so on. St Cuthbert’s is on slightly higher ground, as is the Hare and Hounds pub next door, which has also done a wonderful job. People have been sleeping there.”

Food supplies and items of clothing have been handed out from the church. “We had a wonderful response to the request for food and clothing for those whose homes are flooded. I think I have received over 100 tins of tomato soup alone,” Mr Pridham said. “We had around 150 people through this morning, and we have been getting supplies out in the bucket of a tractor to people in more remote areas.”

Despite the floods, a Remembrance Day service took place outside the church on Monday. More than 60 people attended, some of whom arrived by boat, others by tractor. “We gave thanks today for God’s goodness, and that no one was killed,” Mr Pridham said. “It could have been very different. We are surviving and very much alive.”

More than one month’s rain fell in 24 hours between Thursday and Friday, filling streets and causing the River Don to top its banks in Sheffield, Rotherham, and Doncaster, which suffered similar flooding in 2007.

The Assistant Curate of St Leonard and St Jude, Doncaster, and St Luke’s, Scawthorpe, the Revd David D’Silva, said: “It was the return of a situation I hoped I’d never see again. It’s not as bad as 2007, but the really sad thing is that it has got into the same people’s homes as it did back then. It’s not as extensive, but the memories are there, and there is a real anxiety among parishioners that it’s going to be like last time. . .

“As far as I am aware, no one has actually had to leave their home, but some may be staying with relatives. Doncaster Council has spent lots of money improving flood defences since 2007, and I think without that it would have been much worse.”

In the neighbouring parish of St John the Baptist, Edlington, the Vicar, the Revd Stephen Edmonds, had to deal with a flooded basement boiler-house.

“It was under five feet of water on Thursday, but is now under slightly less,” he said on Friday afternoon. “I believe it was installed in 2007, after the last flood, with a sump pump, but the sheer volume of water overwhelmed it. It will have to be replaced. However, we have come off very lightly compared to others whose homes have been affected.”

In the East Midlands, tributes were paid by church leaders to Annie Hall, the chair of Derby Cathedral Council and a former High Sheriff, who was swept to her death in Darley Dale, near Matlock.

The Acting Dean of Derby, Canon Elizabeth Thomson, said: “Annie was a great friend to the cathedral, and she brought there, as to so much that she did, energy, warmth, and spirit. We knew how she tackled everything before her with commitment and great heart. Our prayers are with her and her family, and with all who have been affected by the recent flooding.”

The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, said: “I am shocked and saddened by this tragic news. The pain and grief of Annie’s death is felt by the whole community at Derby Cathedral and throughout the diocese of Derby. My prayers are with her family at this very sad time. Annie’s faithful professionalism, supportive nature, and wonderful sense of humour meant she was much appreciated as chair of Derby Cathedral Council.

“Throughout Derbyshire, Annie was known for her personable and caring character, and for bringing laughter wherever she went. She will be much missed. Derby Cathedral, and the diocese of Derby, will continue to pray for Annie’s family, and for all those affected by the flooding, offering support and help where we can.”

The Bishop of Repton, the Rt Revd Jan McFarlane, wrote on Twitter: “Shocked and deeply saddened at this tragedy. Annie was bright and vivacious; a great supporter of our Cathedral and County. Praying for Michael and family. May she rest in peace.”

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