RRT Aids Flooded Aldeburgh Community
Following the Environment Agency’s Severe Flood Warning for Aldeburgh and Thorpeness in the early morning of 5th December, a regional Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC) group were drafted in to assist the community. The local coordinator of the Aldeburgh Rapid Relief Team (RRT) was contacted by the town council requesting support due to the impending floods that were predicted to affect Aldeburgh and its surrounding areas.
The local RRT, funded by the (PBCC) were organised, and within a swift 30 minutes, the team arrived at the village community centre to begin filling sandbags, provided by the town council.
Utilising 15 willing team members and the additional physical support from councillors and village residents, the 17-tonne bags of sand soon vanished into the supplied bags, whilst the Coast Guard made sure that all in the affected area knew sandbags were available and where the location for collection was.
Over the next two hours, the catering team arrived and commandeered the village hall canteen to create a base for the distribution of refreshments. Tea, coffee, chocolates, biscuits and crisps were available for the workers and also the displaced villagers who had already begun the evacuation of their homes.
Work was progressing well and with the light fading towards the evening, the RRT supplied a generator and flood lamps. The team began to get involved in distributing the sandbags at the collection point, while others loaded up a van with sandbags and delivered them into the town to help secure properties where residents were not able to come and collect their own. The local ex-Mayor of Aldeburgh borrowed one of the RRT high visibility vests and was directing village and church traffic into the collection point. She exclaimed: “Thank you – I love you!” as the RRT passed her a steaming hot cup of tea!
By 19.00hrs, there were 15 local residents that were without accommodation due to evacuation procedures, and were now to spend the night in the village hall. Upon speaking to the local council (who had also set up a command post at the hall), the RRT discovered that there was nothing in place to support these villagers in the way of beds and necessary overnight equipment. The team immediately contacted the Ipswich branch of RRT and managed to secure the villagers, 15 mattresses that were delivered rapidly. A search of the hall found enough ‘office dividers’ to create eight cubicles for any of the residents to sleep in. Another member of the RRT appeared with enough blankets and pillows to make all the beds look more than inviting.
As the evening went on, the hall was filling up fast with local residents. The town council (who remained all through the night, along with eight members of the Coastguard Agency, six firefighters, six police officers and eight RNLI personnel. Numerous RRT helpers were still working outside.
At around 20.00hrs, hot soup and chips (supplied by one of the RRT team) were served and were gratefully received by the hungry work crews and villagers who had gathered together.
By 22.00hrs, the RRT had arranged an overnight roster which included four catering staff and two additional male support members to sit through the night in two-hourly shifts to care for the needs of the emergency services staff and the councillors who were still on duty.
Various meetings were held throughout the night. The emergency services were still present on the scene and action plans were considered as the water levels increased. Initial concerns were for the sea defences and then two hours later, the river defences, as the water levels continued to rise.
Both held strong and whilst there was the occasional breach of the water defences in places, there were no major occurrences, and by the 02.00hrs shift arrival, the police and Coast Guard Agency gave the all-clear command, meaning the local residents could begin moving back to their own homes again.
Once all the people had left the hall, the RRT set-to and cleared up all the bedding, chairs, kitchens and eating area, finally leaving for their own homes at 03.15hrs following an eventful and busy night.
Some of the comments that the RRT received from grateful villagers, members of the town council and emergency services:
“Wonderful organisation: you were so near perfection that you could not improve on anything.”
“We cannot express enough our gratitude for all you have done – I don’t think you can ever know how much it was appreciated that the emergency services just had somewhere to come and defrost and have a hot cuppa.”
A final clean-up was carried out the following day, with the collection of mattresses and last inspection of the kitchens to make sure that all was back to clean and tidy for a local village dance being held at the hall the following evening.