ENGULFED: Dorset residents counting costs of rain deluge

Dorset Echo: KNEE DEEP: Churchwarden Jane House in a flooded St Mary’s Church in Charminster KNEE DEEP: Churchwarden Jane House in a flooded St Mary’s Church in Charminster

FLOODS are still engulfing Dorset communities as residents continue to count the cost of a deluge of rain.

Last night residents battened down the hatches as severe flood warnings were again issued for Preston Beach in Weymouth and Chiswell on Portland – the Environment Agency’s highest state of alert which means there is a risk to life.

The concern was that with high tides, huge waves would ‘overtop’ the beaches.

Preston Beach Road was closed overnight due to the risks and Portland Beach Road was on standby to close if necessary.

Chiswell residents were advised to move out of their homes if they couldn’t get upstairs in the event of the warning sirens activating – most opted to stay at home.

The Wey Valley School in Weymouth was being prepared as a rest centre if people had to be evacuated near Preston Beach or for those stuck in Weymouth if the road to Portland was closed.

After days of heavy rain, and with more bad weather forecast for today, residents in Dorset are continuing with the big clean-up.

Villages around Dorchester close to rivers appeared to be the worst hit.

St Mary’s Church in Charminster was flooded out yesterday with three inches of water inside after the River Cerne burst its banks.

Around half a dozen residents are still mopping up and the main road through the village is under water. No services can be held at the church for another month.

Churchwarden John Pearson said: “The river level is higher than it’s been at any stage.

“The church is flooded inside to two or three inches high.

“The water was just starting to come through on Sunday and it’s now got much worse.”

Another villager, Hugh Willis, said floodwater levels started to go down on Sunday but rose again after more rain in the evening.

Milton Road in Milborne St Andrew was flooded.

The landlord of the Royal Oak in the village, Andrew Fox, said: “The water is more than a foot deep – it goes over your wellies.”

He said that the pub was the designated flood evacuation site but that as yet, they had not had to use it.

Meanwhile, giant waves have been battering the Dorset coast.

Portland Coastguard is repeating its warnings to people who are putting their lives at risk taking pictures of the fierce seas.

A spokesman for Portland Coastguard said: “A general warning still stands. We’re advising people to stay away from the coastline during these conditions.

“We’d advise people not to get too close to the waves to take photos, even if it looks impressive, it’s dangerous.

“Please stay away from the water in these conditions.”

The spokesman said coastguards have experienced a slightly busier time than normal assisting emergency services with evacuating people.

  •  Unions claim the recent storms and floods show the need to retain expert coastguard resources and knowledge in the area.

The Public and Commercial Services Union highlights the importance of Portland Coastguard’s maritime rescue and coordination centre (MRCC), which is earmarked for closure in September under a government cost-cutting plan.

The union warns lives could be lost as resources were already thinly stretched before the bad weather set in. PCSU general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The response to the storms shows just how invaluable the local knowledge and expertise of coastguard staff are to our communities.

“Ministers must put an immediate halt to their station closure plans that we continue to believe will put lives at risk.”

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