Record number of deaths and injuries from flooding and water rescues across Yorkshire last year, figures show

Some 14 people died and dozens more were hospitalised as a result of flooding and water-related incidents across Yorkshire last year, Home Office data shows.

Figures of deaths and injuries from floods and other water emergencies between April 2019 and March 2020 reached a record high in the UK, which the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said was "no surprise" when considering the effects of climate change.

Across Yorkshire & the Humber, 67 deaths or injuries occurred in the same year the region was hit by floods of unprecedented scales.

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For both West Yorkshire and Humberside, figures reached their highest numbers since comparable records began in 2010.

Rescue workers wade through water in the flooded village of East Cowick, Yorkshire, after Storm Jorge battered the UK

The Government has said most deaths and injuries included in these figures were as a result of rescue incidents in rivers and lakes, as opposed to floods, although the FBU has said the record high is connected to the increasing severity of flooding incidents in recent years and has called on ministers to boost resources for such incidents.

In November 2019, former Derbyshire High Sheriff Annie Hall, 69, died after getting swept away by flood water when her car got stuck near to the River Derwent following heavy rainfall across Yorkshire and the Midlands.

In the same month, the body of 54-year-old David Haslam was pulled from floodwaters in Doncaster.

Across England in the last financial year, there were 111 deaths, 274 hospitalisations and 422 injuries overall – all of which were the highest on record.

Stuart Smith, a volunteer from Somerset standing in the floodwaters of East Cowick, Yorkshire.

The FBU said it was "long past time" the Government gave fire crews in England a statutory duty to respond to flooding – as is already the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The Government needs to recognise that these incidents are only becoming more frequent and more damaging with climate change – just as, at the other end of the scale, hotter, drier summers fuel ever larger wildfires in the UK.

“Moreover, we need a total reshaping of our economy to drive down carbon emissions and prevent further flooding disasters – but that must go hand in hand with funding and resources for the firefighters on the frontline of the climate emergency.”

West Yorkshire saw the highest number of flooding and water emergencies resulting in deaths or injuries, with 30 such incidents. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service recorded 15, Humberside 15 and South Yorkshire seven.

Flood water at Fishlake, Doncaster, pictured in November 2019 as parts of England endured a month's worth of rain in 24 hours

Deputy Chief Fire Officer at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, Dave Walton, said: “Of the 26 people that were sadly injured in water-related incidents that we were called to last year, two were during a period of flooding – namely, storm Ciara in February 2020.

“The other 24 incidents and four tragic deaths were based around our waterways."

He added: “Any injury or death is extremely sad and we will always do everything we can to protect the people of West Yorkshire, whatever incident we are called out to.”

A Government spokeswoman said the vast majority of fatalities and casualties come from water and rescue incidents, such as lakes and rivers, not flooding.

She added: “Our condolences go to anyone who has lost a loved one in these tragic circumstances.

“Fire and rescue services are always ready to respond when people get into difficulty in water, and people should stay away from swollen rivers, take care by the coast, and always follow the advice of the emergency services during flooding.”

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