Pulling together in the wake of the floods

Flooding aftermath in Hebden Bridge'Picture: Craig Shaw/ blu planet photography'
Flooding aftermath in Hebden Bridge'Picture: Craig Shaw/ blu planet photography'

When the Prime Minister visited Todmorden this week to see the clean-up operation following the floods, he found the community pulling together.

Residents are now working with a range of organisations, including the council, cracking on with the clean-up and telling the world that the Calder Valley is open for business!

When the floods hit, local businessman Rob Houlden, was helping his community within hours.

He runs an IT business and realised that a Facebook Group would be one of the best ways for people to give and ask for help.

The Calder Valley Flood Victims Facebook group was quickly up and running, with 2,000-plus members. It’s a forum where people can exchange information and advice and which puts people who need help in touch with those who can provide it.

“I’ve been really knocked out by how people have come together. Many of the people who are providing help are flood victims themselves,” he said.

“I remember the big flood at Walsden in the ‘80s when my own family lost everything, so I felt as though I had to do something.”

He says he remembers one of his parents’ neighbours from that time.

“She’s now a pensioner, but she was one of the first to donate food. This really restores your faith in communities and in human nature.”

To make contact: Go on to Facebook and type in Calder Valley Flood Victims.

Keith Crabtree was one of the first on the scene when the floodwaters began to rise.

A retired council employee, Keith is a volunteer flood warden.

He did a 16-and-a-half hour day, starting at 5.00pm when he was asked to go out and check the river levels close to the petrol station on Halifax Road.

“When I first went to check, there was a two and a half-foot gap between the water and the top of the bridge at that point. But within a few hours that had risen and there was flooding across Halifax Road.”

Keith spent the night telling shop owners to get their stock upstairs before going off to direct traffic.

“All I could do then was stop cars and re-direct traffic.

“I have never seen rainfall like this . . . and I never want to see it again!”

Matthanee Nilavongse owns Hunuman Thai restaurant in Water Street, Todmorden.

Despite her own premises being hit by the floods, she was one of the first to offer food to the hardest-hit residents.

“The water started coming into our restaurant at about 8pm and staff had to move upstairs. Then we realised that we wouldn’t be able to get back home, so we all slept on the floor.

“I put a message on Facebook on the Saturday and about 10 people turned up for food. . . . I think people may have been a bit shy.

“But on the Sunday, 54 people came and we were able to give them food.

“When we put something on Facebook to say that our cellars were flooded, we got 15 people, who just turned up to help us deal with it.”

Matthannee is now talking to Calderdale Council’s environmental health officers, who are advising her on what she now needs to do to get the business up and running quickly.

“Everything’s going to be alright,” she said.

Hebden Bridge Antique Dealers pitched in to help when the floodwaters inundated the ground floor of the Antiques Centre in Albert Street.

Patricia Banyard runs the centre, which houses 50 separate antique dealerships.

“The 12 antique dealers on the ground floor were particularly badly affected, one in particular, who deals in antique books lost everything. Others had stock lost or damaged,” she said.

“The fire service pumped out the ground floor and then the antique dealers rolled up their sleeves, pitched in and spent two and a half days cleaning and getting the centre up and running again.

“We want people to know that Hebden Bridge is open for business.”

Only a couple of weeks ago, the centre was filmed for an episode of BBC TVs popular Antiques Road Trip, due to be screened in the autumn.

“The choreographer, Arlene Phillips and dancer Anton Du Beke from Strictly Come Dancing were here, along with antiques experts, Charles Hanson and James Braxton.

“The next minute we were having to deal with the floods. . . but we’re really bouncing back,” says Patricia.

Michaela Booth, Victoria Kavanagha and Helena Cook pitched in at Todmorden Town Hall, cooking for people who are still unable to make themselves a hot meal in their own flood-damaged kitchens.

“We’ve been knocked out by people’s generosity,” says Michaela.

”All of the food has been donated by shopkeepers and local market traders.

Helena said: “This is all about the community coming together. People have been really generous.”

Calderdale Council’s Safer, Cleaner, Greener team worked flat out to get the towns moving again.

With rivers at their highest ever recorded level, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd were particularly badly hit by the flooding, resulting from a whole month’s rainfall in just a few hours.

But the team spearheaded the clean-up, working with the emergency services and Highways teams through the night and all the next day.

Many worked continuously from the early hours of Saturday morning until late the same evening - 20 hours plus - snatching a few hours of sleep before going out to carry on with the clean-up on the Sunday.

Calderdale Council leader, Coun Tim Swift, said: “People have responded magnificently in a time of crisis, demonstrating a real community spirit. Council workers have gone the extra mile to help Calderdale’s communities and I am really proud of their commitment.”

Calderdale Council’s deputy leader, Coun Janet Battye, said: People are the backbone of our communities and at times like this, it is good to see them working together.