Water, water everywhere

February 19, 2014

Moorland, Britain

By Cathal McNaughton

It’s like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. The Somerset village of Moorland is under five feet of water. Wading along the usually bustling main street, I am struck by how quiet it is – everything has an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel.

The only sound I can hear is coming from the now breached flood defences moving backwards and forwards in the ebb and flow of the rising waters, creaking like a sinking ship.

There is a strong chemical smell of leaking fuel as I push past the huge chunks of debris floating by in the murky waters. Cars lie abandoned with their lights left on, the houses are sandbagged and empty – their inhabitants left days ago. I see a deserted house with post still sticking out of the letterbox.

In the distance, I hear a faint rumble, which continues to grow until around the corner comes a large, ex-military amphibious vehicle. It’s the type of thing you might more usually see on fun city tours, which plunge into the river to the delight of the passengers. But here these vehicles are being used by amateur rescuers keen to do their bit.

It stops and I’m offered a lift through the village to the other side, where a few remaining villagers battle to keep the floods at bay. Others are simply hoping that the waters don’t rise any more. This is the case at the Vize family farm, where the living room is already under several inches of water. It starts to rain again.

It’s not easy approaching people who are clearly going through such a difficult and life-changing time. But as is mostly the case, I am left embarrassed and in awe of the hospitality and patience with which I’m greeted.

Sally Vize, 61, welcomes me into her house and, as if things were completely normal, immediately offers me a cup of coffee, which I gratefully accept. She then insists on making me sandwiches as we chat about the flooding. This would indeed seem relatively normal if the water weren’t lapping around our legs and the antique dining table wasn’t propped up on blocks of timber to keep it clear of the rising water.

After the sandwiches and another cup of coffee I take some pictures and leave. The sun is shining. By the end of the day I’ve been invited into several homes in my sodden chest waders and offered several cups of tea.

As I grab a lift back through the village on the military green monster, there’s a rumble of thunder and a flash of lighting. These people are really getting all the elements thrown at them, with many losing everything they have ever worked for. Their nightmare doesn’t look like it will be ending any time soon.

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