Residents fighting to keep head
above water after devastation

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Despite the wintry day customers turning up to Reedness Post Office are asked to leave the door open.

With one small dryer blowing out air, Sharon Hart needs all the help she can to get her home and business dry in the wake of the devastating floods.

Without insurance, sub-postmistress Sharon has had to rely on herself, her sons and partner to keep the business afloat, when it literally went underwater on December 5.

She and many others were caught unprepared as there were no warnings before the flood poured in over the lowest section of the flood defences on the River Ouse. One in three of the houses in the village were flooded in the space of just 20 minutes.

The Environment Agency is now bearing the brunt of anger about the fact defences hadn’t been raised throughout Reedness as they had in nearby Swinefleet, which escaped flooding. It has admitted sending a warning around 7.30pm – by which time some people were knee-high in water.

Sharon had been refused by several insurance companies because of a combination of factors – she had a previous claim when a driver suffered a heart attack and destroyed her front wall and she is in a flood zone.

“We have been refused insurance or certain companies will insure us, but not for flood,” she said. “The premiums are unaffordable. There are houses in Swinefleet who have been flooded before and their excess is £10,000 – you can put it right yourself for that.”

Thousands of pounds of goods were lost in the flood – carpets, bed settee, a TV, her elder son’s girlfriend’s car and her own Peugot 407 were wrecked. Her youngest son is trying to save his car. Friends and neighbours have chipped in – neighbours are paying for lino to go down on the floor of the post office and friends used money from a Lottery sweep to buy a new washing machine.

Her resolve breaks when asked how she would feel if it happened again. “If it happened again I don’t know if I could cope. The thought of it happening again is very daunting. My partner is totally distraught. This has knocked him for six; he’s hardly eaten anything for two weeks.”

A couple of doors down the trail of devastation is still plain to see after a fortnight.

At Geoff Cowling’s bungalow loss adjustors were totting up the damage, Christmas decorations were lying on the floor, never to be used, and there were heaps of black dustbin bags full of soggy belongings, destined for the tip.

While Sharon had been able to get on with the clean-up, Geoff hadn’t been able to start, ironically because of the insurance. A large static caravan which will be his family’s home for the next six months or more had just arrived.

His was a dramatic story: the family had gone to see a play in Goole leaving his 18-month-old grandson with a babysitter.

They’d only just arrived when the babysitter called and was so distraught it was impossible to make out what she was saying. Later they discovered that she had rung 999 to be told to go upstairs. She had to climb out of the front window and wade across the road with the crying toddler and take refuge with a neighbour. As far as Christmas was concerned it was a write off – like his belongings.

He said: “There is very little that we have been able to save; we tried to save some photos that were higher up. I must admit I shed a few tears. We have lived here 32 years and I was born in the area but I have never known it flood here.

“We have written Christmas off, we have not sent any Christmas cards – it’s rather difficult being in a hotel. We have lost the Christmas presents – most were under the bed.”