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News | 26th March 2020
 

Village at odds with official flood report

 
 
 

Diaries show residents were left to cope on their own in storm

CRITICISM has been levelled against Scottish Borders
Council for its account of the emergency help given to
Newcastleton when the village was flooded last month.
The report to the Teviot & Liddesdale area partnership after the flood on Saturday, February 15 is at odds with the villagers’ experience.
The discrepancy was highlighted at this month’s community council meeting when a full report on the flooding of dozens of homes was given.
Residents, the community
resilience team members and the village fire and rescue service wrote diaries of the weekend’s events and the community council has forwarded them to
Scottish Borders Council.
A summary of these diaries showed help was sought by the resilience team at 3.30pm and a call was made to the council’s emergency bunker for sandbags.
About an hour later the road from Hawick was impassable and houses in Holmfoot, the southern end of the village,
started to see water.
The Scottish Environment
Protection Agency (SEPA)
issued its first serious flood warning at 4.25pm.
Coinciding with this, the bunker was updated with another request for help from the fire service.
The resilience team were
advised that, because it wasn’t a threat to life, the fire crew wouldn’t be despatched.
No one came to help: no
police, no fire service.
Volunteers started doing what they could to move folk in peril. The resilience team, carers and doctors opened the health centre to cope with residents in need.
At about 6.30pm the Dumfries and Langholm fire service
arrived but shortly afterwards were sent to Kershopefoot, along with the volunteer crew, to rescue a family trapped in a car. The village was left to cope on its own until they returned.
SEPA issued a severe flood warning at 7pm.
Stranded
Many homes at the southern end of the village did not get this because the communications had gone down (they were still out at the time of the meeting but are back on now), by which time some of the village was waist deep in water and residents were stranded in their properties.
Flood waters were extremely dangerous, moving at extreme speeds and lifting pavements, roads and manholes.
Volunteers attempted to reach areas but water levels made
efforts impossible.
At about 9pm two ambulances arrived in response to callouts. If they got through via the B6357, why didn’t police and more fire crews? Shortly after this, water started to retreat.
Exploded
It was clear to the community that the drains played a sig-
nificant part in the flooding; waters were just unable to escape quickly enough and water
exploded through manholes to get out.
It surged into unexpected places and entered many homes from the rear.
Residents had prepared
defences at the front of their properties so more damage was caused as a result.
Drains were full on the southern frontage of the riverside
before the weekend and not
operating.
Why were they not dealt with before the weekend?

A FULL report with the timeline was sent to the council. The community council is now seeking an apology over the published account of how the council responded to the village’s needs, as published in the area partnership meeting’s minutes.
The minutes noted that Jim Fraser, emergency planning
officer, said SEPA had acted correctly in its predictions
and timings of warnings. However, the water levels spiked extremely quickly.
On Saturday’s warning times he advised that the first warning for the Liddel Water was 4.25pm, with another at 7pm.
Regarding the support given by the emergency services, he said Police Scotland had
declared a major incident in
Newcastleton and deployed, in addition to a number of local officers, five police vans from their operational reserve,
including officers from
Glasgow.
In addition, 30 coastguard
personnel were mobilised, along with fire and rescue service
personnel and specialist water
rescue.
Over the lack of communication response from the
emergency bunker during the weekend, Mr Fraser said staff were there but had dealt with an extremely high number of calls from the emergency services for support and from residents in Hawick, Newcastleton,
Peebles, Kelso and Jedburgh.
Accurate
The minutes said the council had reacted quickly and by 8am on Sunday, had deployed staff, road sweepers and mechanical diggers to tidy up the roads and footpaths, which was accurate.
At the community council meeting it was agreed with the resilience team to prepare a list of needs to ensure that, should this happen again and no help was forthcoming, they would be better equipped and trained to cope themselves.
The councillors thanked those who risked their lives to help and save others in extreme circumstances and reminded all volunteers that they must register with the resilience team to be insured.

 
 
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