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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Calm after the storm but flooding misery continues as groundwater rises in Canterbury and surrounding villages

15 February 2014
by Lowri Stafford

The extreme weather has finally relented, but flooding misery continues for people in Canterbury and the surrounding villages.

Residents and business-owners are today surveying the damage after days of heavy rainfall and gale-force winds, which has worsened already hard-hit areas.

The Army is continuing to distribute sandbags and help families in villages that have been worst-affected, including Bishopsbourne, Littlebourne and Barham.

Soldiers helping to reinforce flood defences in Bishopsbourne

Soldiers helping to reinforce flood defences in Bishopsbourne. Picture: Chris Davey

And as groundwater levels continue to rise, the Environment Agency still has a flood warning in place for the Great Stour in Fordwich and a flood alert for the lower River Stour running through Canterbury, Sturry and Chartham.

The agency says the effects of Friday's heavy rainfall are still feeding through the river system, with water levels expected to peak at 10am today in Fordwich.

Despite the dry weather forecast, water levels are expected to be similar to those seen last weekend, threatening homes in areas including Kingston, Patrixbourne, Elham, Bridge, Littlebourne, Bishopsbourne and Wickhambreaux.

Soldiers help with sandbags in Bishopsbourne. Picture Environment Agency

Soldiers help with sandbags in Bishopsbourne. Picture: Environment Agency

Speaking from Bishopsbourne yesterday, Captain Michael Rivington from the 5 Scots regiment said: "We have 12 soldiers in Bishopsbourne, and a total of 100 from Howe Barracks in other villages and on stand-by.

"The river bank here has just broken, and is threatening the houses nearby. We've already created a barrier, and we're hoping to build channels to re-distribute the water.

"The weather could worsen and the defences we've made might not be able to cope. We'll be in and around Canterbury, helping out.

Villagers did their best to move floodwater away from homes in   Seaton

Villagers did their best to move floodwater away from homes in Seaton. Picture: Chris Davey

Routes to Grove Ferry cut off by flooding

Some roads in Kent, including to Grove Ferry, have been cut off by flooding. Picture: Chris Davey

Sandbags used to create a flood defence in Bishopsbourne

Sandbags used to create a flood defence in Bishopsbourne

"We're just the hands that push the sandbags. We're providing reassurance to residents, and hopefully preventing more flooding before it can occur."

Canterbury City Council is continuing to monitor water levels in the Stour and Nailbourne rivers.

A spokesman said: "As a result of the concern about water levels, we have now had the offer of assistance from the military.

Captain Michael Rivington from the 5 Scots regiment

Captain Michael Rivington from the 5 Scots regiment

"In order to ensure the fullest protection of people and property, this offer has been accepted.

"Their role is to help with any sandbag placement required and to provide reassurance to the public.

"It should be stressed that at this stage the work of the military is a precautionary measure.

"We are aware people may be concerned at seeing soldiers on the streets but we want to reassure residents that the weather forecast has improved and the danger of further flooding is manageable by the measures put in place and the resources available."

Flooding in Bridge has been particularly bad this weekend, with water creeping up to homes lined with sandbags in Brewery Lane.

A sandbag channel has been built to take water across the High Street from Brewery Lane, and into the Nailbourne.

The High Street will remain open but drivers are urged to slow down when driving through the water.

The police are also continuing to work with firefighters, the Environment Agency and other crews to deal with flooding, as well as damage caused by the strong winds.

Detective Superintendent Martin Very said: "We've been working with a number of different agencies to respond to issues that have arisen because of the severe weather.

A supply of sandbags at the ready by the swollen Stour in Chartham

A supply of sandbags at the ready by the swollen Stour in Chartham. Picture: Chris Davey

Sandbags surround a house in Seaton

Sandbags surround a house in Seaton. Picture: Chris Davey

Pipes leading from pumps and into the swollen Nailbourne in Bridge

Pipes leading from pumps and into the swollen Nailbourne in Bridge. Picture: Chris Davey

"Even when the rain stops, the groundwater runs off the fields. The worst affected areas are probably Bishopsbourne and Littlebourne, which we're monitoring closely.

"The Army is being directed to areas around Canterbury. In very severe weather, we ask various agencies including the Army to help. It was felt they could offer a bit of muscle!"

As well as the downpour, gale-force winds of up to 80mph blew down trees and caused road closures and chaos on the rails.

Residents and a KCC employee clear a fallen tree in Cockering Road, Chartham

Residents and a KCC employee clear a fallen tree in Cockering Road, Chartham. Picture: Chris Davey

The London-bound stretch of the M2 was closed for several hours between junctions 7 for Brenley Corner and 6 for Faversham on Saturday, after a series of trees fell onto the carriageway.

The closure had a knock-on effect on other routes, with tailbacks stretching along the A2 and the A299 Thanet Way.

In Chartham, a tree fell in Shalmsford Street at 10.30am and blocked the road.

A fallen tree blocking the train line near Canterbury East. Picture Britta Osthaus

A fallen tree blocking the train line near Canterbury East. Picture: Britta Osthaus

It came after a driver Robert Harden had a lucky escape in the same area in the early hours of Saturday morning, when he crashed into a fallen tree blocking the road.

As he was sitting in a police officer's car waiting for help, a second tree came crashing down onto his car, narrowly missing the car he was in.

Mr Harden explained: "A tree had fallen blocking the road. Due to the unlit road and heavy rain, I just didn't see it and went straight into it at around 50mph.

Driver Robert Harden's car was hit by two falling trees

Driver Robert Harden's car was hit by two falling trees

"I had to climb out the back of the car as the front doors wouldn't open. The car was a complete write-off.

"An off-duty police officer then found me, and let me sit in her car until the police came.

"Just as they arrived, a second tree fell onto the back of my car and just clipped the bonnet of the off-duty police officer's car."

Police and fire crews were called to the freak accident at 1am, but luckily Mr Harden was unhurt.

A car windscreen thought to have been smashed by a falling roof tile

A car windscreen thought to have been smashed by a falling roof tile

Meanwhile in Faversham, a taxi driver avoided catastrophe when a 20ft tree fell on his vehicle on the A2 near the Norton Crossroads just before midnight.

He escaped unscathed after the fir tree plunged to the ground, blocking the road.

Firefighter Mark Innes said: "When we got there you couldn't see the car, it was completely underneath the tree. The driver was very, very lucky.
 
"Because it was a fir tree, it had lots of soft branches so it didn't crush it and he was able to get himself out without any injuries."
 
If you've been affected by flooding, call Canterbury City Council's 24/7 emergency helpline on 01227 862310 or email emergency@canterbury.gov.uk.

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