West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service carried out 40 rescues and took 700 999 calls in a 24-hour period described as “extraordinary and unprecedented”.
Assistant chief fire officer Dave Walton said calls started at about 7am on Boxing Day, with rescue efforts initially focused on the Calderdale area.
Rescues were carried out with the help of a search and rescue helicopter in Mytholmroyd as people found themselves stranded in cars and pedestrians were stuck in open water.
With water levels rising across West Yorkshire, by the time the River Aire burst its banks in the late afternoon, contingency plans had already been taken in Leeds.
Ten extra rescue boats had been summoned from other fire and rescue services, along with an additional 50 personnel to join the 50 already deployed by the West Yorkshire brigade.
The main problems were on Kirkstall Road, where a number of businesses were flooded, and around The Calls in the city centre.
Mr Walton, who oversaw rescue efforts, said: “It’s what I would describe as an extraordinary and unprecedented level of demand, the likes of which we have not seen for many years.”
He paid tribute to all those involved in the rescue effort, adding: “It was a very challenging day for everybody involved, but being in command of the fire and rescue operation it was great to have the confidence in our crews, whose levels of commitment and professionalism made my job easy.”
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