Worst deluge in decades

THREE teenagers were pulled to safety from swollen rivers, roads and schools were closed and hundreds of residents were evacuated as South Yorkshire became one of the country's worst hit flood areas yesterday. Animals were reported drowned at farms in Barnsley, where whole villages were left submerged after 48 hours of rain.

A senior police officer described the flooding as the worst to hit the region in her 30 years with the force.

Fire chiefs called a state of emergency after the service was inundated with 500 calls in 18 hours – five times the amount on a normal day. Only incidents involving threats to life were prioritised.

A 14-year-old boy was lucky to be alive after he was swept a mile down a swollen stream in the Ecclesfield area of Sheffield. He was pulled unconscious from Blackburn Brook, which runs adjacent to Cowley Lane, near Chapeltown Park. He was taken to Sheffield Children's Hospital.

Two other teenagers were rescued from a dyke in Barnsley. The boys, both 15, managed to scramble onto high ground after being swept away in flood waters in the Barugh Green area.

They were rescued by firefighters using a boat, before being taken to Barnsley District General Hospital with suspected hypothermia.

The busiest time for the fire service was 8am to 2pm when crews attended nearly 90 incidents, the majority in Barnsley and Sheffield.

The village of Darton was submerged and farmers reported dead animals floating in waterlogged fields.

John Greenwood, who runs Kingfisher Farm and Barn Farm in the village, said he had lost two calves.

He said: "I couldn't get to them as they were stuck at the other side of a flooded field. I couldn't get to them fast enough and unfortunately they drowned. I could see rabbits floating in the water. The floods have devastated the village."

Meanwhile properties were evacuated across the county. In the Lundwood area of Barnsley, the local authority prepared a reception centre for several hundred residents, some of whom refused to leave their properties.

Emergency services and other agencies brought contingency plans into action after the river Dearne rose to dangerously high levels. In Wombwell, more than 20 houses were evacuated when the Dearne burst its banks.

In Sheffield, residents in Falding Street, Ecclesfield, were evacuated along with more than 50 houses in Bolsover Road, Fir Vale.

More than 50 elderly residents had to be moved from a nursing home in Chapeltown, Sheffield. Fire crews helped occupants from their rooms at the Chapel Lodge home in Station Road, after sand bags failed to keep water at bay.

Two other nursing homes in Sheffield also had be evacuated as a result of water damage.

All trains in and out of Rotherham were halted after water flooded the tracks and Northern Rail was unable to provide an alternative bus service because rain closed dozens of roads in the town.

Emergency services worked with the council, the Environment Agency and RSPCA to deal with problems across the region and urged people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

Supt Joan Williams, of South Yorkshire Police, said: "This is the worst flooding I can remember in my 30 years of service. We have been inundated with calls. It has been a real challenge, but we have risen to it and along with the fire service coped with the situation. Thankfully nobody was injured."

The head of community safety at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Bob Rowland, said clear-up work would continue through the night, particularly in the Doncaster and Rotherham areas.