Elderly couple dread premiums after nearly year’s homelessness

Barry and Kathleen Holmes outside their home in Weald Park, Kingswood, Hull which was flooded in 2007.
Barry and Kathleen Holmes outside their home in Weald Park, Kingswood, Hull which was flooded in 2007.
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BARRY and Kathleen Holmes remember June 25, 2007, as though it was yesterday.

They had an appointment at their dentist’s that morning, and noticed it was raining heavily as they drove out of their cul-de-sac in the Kingswood area of Hull.

What they did not know was that they would not be going home again for almost a year.

The rain, which fell incessantly for more than 24 hours, would wreak such devastation on the city that civic leaders called it the worst natural disaster it had ever suffered.

An official report into the flooding came up with a memorable way of describing the scale of the deluge – it said that the during the heaviest period of rainfall, the equivalent of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools fell on Hull every second.

For Mr and Mrs Holmes the consequences were equally hard to comprehend.

It meant not only the loss of material possessions and irreplaceable objects of sentimental value, but the denial of that personal space and place of final refuge they called home.

And it is only now, nearly 
five years later, that they can properly put the experience into context.

“What was the worst thing?” ponders Mrs Holmes, 77. “I realised it was not having somewhere to go back to.

“Barry collapsed and was 
in hospital and it’s when something horrible happens that you realise.

“I’d gone to see him and came back; there was nowhere to come home to.

“Home was the place where you would rationalise everything and it wasn’t here.”

And then there was the seemingly interminable struggle to replace what was lost, to repair the damage and get back to normal, which took 10 months and cost about £43,000.

“It was a mental trauma as far as I was concerned,” said Mr Holmes, 81, a retired teacher.

“It was like looking down a tunnel with no end.”

But their suffering was at least tempered by the knowledge that they were insured, which meant professional and practical help as well as someone to write the cheques.

So it is with a growing sense of dread that they approach their renewal date later this 
month, knowing that they, like potentially hundreds of thousands of others, could face a prohibitive rise in premiums as a result of the failure of Government and the 
insurance industry to agree a deal to ensure protection for people living in flood-risk areas, 
while some may not get any cover at all.

Mrs Holmes said: “I’ve heard people say they can’t get insurance, and other people say they’ve got it but at a big price or with a big excess.

“The uncertainty is worrying.”

Her husband said if he was not able to get insurance he would “rent a tent”, and although they both remain hopeful of being covered they would like an end to the anxiety.

On that day in 2007, the couple only began to appreciate the seriousness of the situation when they came back from the dentist’s and were stopped by a policeman at the end of the road who said they could not go home.

The were lucky in the sense that their daughter Jane, who lives in Beverley, had accompanied them to the dentist’s and suggested they go to back with her.

They stayed in Beverley for two days before they went back to look, and the water was 
waist deep. They then found themselves competing with thousands of others in a desperate scramble for alternative accommodation.

“It was like bedlam,” said Mr Holmes. “By that evening there wasn’t a rented place or hotel room to be had.”

It took six weeks to find a suitable house for rent in Beverley, by which time the stress had taken its toll.

“I was in shock,” said Mrs Holmes, “and you don’t act in a rational manner. I used to have a sleeping bag downstairs.

“There was a bed for me but I couldn’t stay in it.”

They shudder at the thought of it happening again but remain stoical.

Mrs Holmes added: “I’m a Christian. I got through it once with God’s help and with God’s help I’ll get through it again.”