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Storm Babet chaos sees communities come together to support each other

Amid the wind, rain and chaos brought by Storm Babet last week, communities allowed their selflessness to shine as people came together to battle the aftermath.

Severe flooding struck across Norfolk and Suffolk from Friday and through the weekend, with roads quickly becoming impassable and homes and business finding themselves underwater.

Fire and rescue services were stretched to capacity, with dozens of incidents reported, as a major incident was declared in Suffolk, with areas such as Framlingham seeing unprecedented flooding.

Photographer: Trevor Mayes
Photographer: Trevor Mayes

The River Ore burst their banks, leaving the town cut off, with the church and community providing emergency shelter, hot food and beds in the Castle Community Hall.

With a major incident declared, Jon Lacey, Suffolk’s Chief Fire Officer, advised people to only travel if necessary, and described severe flooding making driving conditions dangerous for road users.

Mike Ager, from Redlingfield, described the village as being under four feet of water, with homes ruined and some residents being made “effectively homeless”.


He added: “Occold is flooded with the Beaconsfield Arms car park and half the pub under water. Horham is cut off and a highways tanker should be coming to Redlingfield to pump out water from homes but there are 600 on the list before us. People who have lived here all their lives have never seen it this bad.”

At Gislingham Primary School, children who would otherwise have been stranded were given a lift home in a tractor trailer by members of the Barker family, who own Lodge Farm in Westhorpe.

Headteacher Richard Benstock, said: “The Barker family have always helped the school with events such as farm visits, school sustainability projects and harvest festivals, but today they kindly used their resources in a practical way to support local families in need. Our heartfelt thanks go out to them.”

Norfolk did not escape the storm, with Dickleburgh moor and Flowerdew Meadow in Scole flooding. Several families in Attleborough had to abandon their homes.

Staff at Kingsley Care Home in Diss had to rely on the help of Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 response, which ensured that elderly, vulnerable people expecting home care visits were able to get the support they needed.

Branch manager Hannah Daley said: “It was a crazy few days, and we thought we might need boats at one point, but, after contacting social services, they put us in touch with the 4x4 team who were great.

“Some staff members still had to wade one mile through water, but we managed to reach everyone in our care.

“I’ve been a carer around 12 years and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said: “While some communities were relatively unscathed by Storm Babet, the destruction and disruption it has caused in many areas of Suffolk cannot be underestimated.

“I would like to thank the blue light services, highways and council staff for their hard work in such difficult circumstances.

“I would also like to commend the farmers and 4x4 owners who rushed to the aid of stranded children and residents and brought them to safety. But most of all, I wish to thank Suffolk’s wonderful volunteers and members of the community, who stepped up and helped each other.

Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore offered his thanks to all those who had volunteered to help.

“I am truly heartened by the wonderful support the people of Suffolk have given to those who have found themselves in difficulty or distress because of the terrible floods we have experienced,” he said.

Debenham and Hepworth were also badly hit, with the vicar of Debenham, Canon Susan Taylor, offering comforting words and support to those whose homes or businesses had been hit by flooding.

In the wake of the storm, two of the leading candidates for the new Waveney Valley parliamentary constituency said more needed to be done to prevent flooding in the future.

Conservative Richard Rout said: “Questions clearly need to be asked about why there was only a yellow weather warning issued for our area.

“We need to understand why this was the case and if more could have been done to lessen the impact if we had been prepared.”

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said that Friday’s events were part of the Government’s failure to set clear targets and plans for flood resilience.

He added: “We urgently need a long-term and co-ordinated approach to flood prevention and management.

“The Government’s response to date has been too little, too late.”