As the 10-year anniversary of the devastating Tsunami floods, comes around. Which wiped out half of Thailand in 2004. Cumbrian thoughts turn to another flood event, on a much smaller and local scale; the 10 year anniversary of the Carlisle (UK) floods.
It was on Saturday 8th January 2005, that the River Eden finally broke it’s banks and swamped much of the city and surrounding area, with unprecedented levels of water.
The city was cut in half, as the main trunk road through the city was lost under 7-feet of water. If that wasn’t bad enough, the powergrid went off for 2 days aswell, as the main substation was submerged.
Carlisle – (which is a minor and regualrly flood hit city) had never seen such a deluge of water in living memory and it happened so quick. The river filled up neighbouring Bitts Park which flowed into the open central Hardwicke Circus roundabout. Which in turn, filled up like a big sink and flooded the surrounding city centre.
I can vividly remember walking through nearby Stanwix, looking down into Bitts Park. As the raging torrent threatened to wash away the 200 year-old stone Eden Bridge, which spans the River Eden and connects North Carlisle to the rest.
Overhead, the thunder of a Sea King helicopter roared. As it rescued people waving from the upstairs windows of flooded properties. Most people can sum the event up, by the moment-defining photographs of people in dinghies; rowing about on what would norrmally be a bustling dual carriageway – in the city centre.
The Carlisle floods weren’t a unique event either, in terms of the nearby devastating Cockermouth floods of 2009, the 2013 Somerset floods, or York every other year. But it was unprecedented, in terms of the response from the then central Labour government.
Carlisle received substanial disaster recovery funds of over £100 million and a new £48 million flood defence project, to update the city infrastructure; which has since saved the city from similar deluges – in the intervening years. Especially 2009, which blighted nearby Cockermouth instead.
Most other cities, which were wiped out later. Didn’t receive quite the level of funding to prep for the next time, as the money had ran out. For that, I suppose we should be thankful that it happened then and not now under a Tory administarion (Northern England flooded? Let the bastards drown!).
There was no major loss of life, like the 2004 Tsunami. Although, Thailand has since reflected that life has improved in the country, as the flood stopped a civil war and the resulting International Aid rebuild project, rebuilt homes, businesses and hospitals.
The same happened here, in terms of the resulting aid and work undertaken to shore up the city. We are currently experiencing unprecedented levels of rainfall here in Cumbria, this December and the memory of another flood is never far from anyone’s mind.
The final odd positive trade-off from the Carlisle floods, was to do with the power outage. Due to the local populace being housebound with no power. The city experienced record birth levels, with the so called “flood babies”; 9 months later.