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THE LOUTH FLOOD.

SCKXK OF DESOLATION AN'!) I'J'IX. Ti it- special correspondent cit' tho London Daily Chronicle. reporting 011 Sunday night. .May ."'I!. thus tells of i lie disastrous flood in ilio Lnutli Valley ill" Lincolnshire, of' which the cables gave tis information at the time: — As if it. wore a tropical town swept by a tidal wave, instead of a pleasant iiuje Lincolnshire town set, between the h iis and marshes. Loiuh is to-diiy a place of destruction and dentil. The d:sasti-r wliich suddenly made- of these streets deep rivers swirling with wrecki ago of hollies, and these houses drnth--1 traps ill the floods, was so sudden that , even now it. seems curiously unreal and !>< vond. our comprehension. I cannot put it hotter than to :-ay that hero, on the spot, one feels as if o:io had been witnessing a sensation film elaborately staged regardless of cost. One almost, ox poets the burst of applause that succeeds the gasp of wonder. And then one meets :i party of resetters bringing in another body, and one sees little groups mourning for the <le;id and for wrecked homes, and olio realises that, this horror is real. The waters have gone down —in the lower part, of Ihe town. They covered streets, gardens, and ground floors to a depth of six feet —but they have loft behind a pall of mud. incites thick, which covers every road and floor. taking one's mind back to yesterday fSaturday). when Louth's only excitement ' ami interest- seemed to be the by-i lection. and some local football luat'-hes. one recalls a web afternoon and some threats of thunder. At five o'clock rain was falling, aful most neo;jle were driven indoors, contented to find shelter, and tea. ready, and never dreaming of the disaster that was already gathering .strength to hurl itself from the hills in the west. The rain increased in volume, and at 0.30 was falling in torrents, with crashing rolls of thunder. At about the same time the Lud. which in normals times is nothing more than a small stream running through the town. swelled rapidly to a torrent. the waters swept down from the hills, the little riverbed could no longer carry them away, and as if lock-gates had been recklessly thrown open, the floods swept- up mid over the hanks, and almost, in a moment- the low-lying parts of the town was under water.

Tlu'n it became for most people a rush lor safety, and few had a thought for anything hut the safety ol themselves and those nearest to them, and tho salving of furniture. Houses were flooded in a moment, and in many cases the water soon filled ground-floor rooms to the ceiling. People have told me how the Hood first began to pour under the doors, and how they began to tear up carpets and pilo lighter furniture on tables, thinking it. was nothing luit a. case of saving a few articles from getting wet-, till the waters rose above the knees, and they had to spring upstairs for dear lite. From upper windows they looked down on strange spines. which lost interest as they realised what must be happening downstairs among their own household goods. For in rivers that had once been street? they saw furniture floating about, with hero and there a dead hodv. sometimes only that of a cat or dog. but in many eases that of a human being. Tiv this time an area some 200 yard? wide was deeply flooded, cutting off one part of the town from the other. The mayor's house lay in the path of the waters as they rose and flung through the town.'and the dead body of woman wa6 washed into his garden. At one house a woman got outof her bedroom window and climbed on to the roof by means of tlie water spout. She was on the roof several hours before she could be rescued.

Rescue parties state that the- pressure of water against the doors was so great that they could not be opened even after the water had subsided — pointing to tlie fact that the unfortunate victims had tried in vain to open the doors and were unable to do so. The difficulties are illustrated by the fact that a complete terrace of over a dozen houses has been almost completed demolished, and of the inhabitants "mauv are still unaccounted for. A graphic stcry was told me by the chiet°officcr at. the County Police' Station. who remained on duty and kept up telephonic communication for three hours and a halfj whilij standing in j

•tfr. of water in his office. "The llood rook every body completely by surprise." he arid. "T w.-i« in my office here, but had no idea that there was anything, amiss until my wife drew my attention to the fact that the street outside (Eastgatc) was under water. '•'At first- we thought that a water main had burst, but in ten minutes the water had risen to 2ft. and soon there were quite Gft of water in the road. Mv office and living room were swamped, but that was nothing to the plight of other people. Three houses were washed away in James street and three more in Ramsgate and very many people have been rendered homeless. So sudden was the disaster that few had any time to prepare for it. Quite one hundred families were so taken by surprise that they had not even time to remove a single article of furniture from the ground floor. The water came with terrible force, and the scene after the flood was awful. It looked just like a sea. with dead pig- and fowls floating about 011 the surface."

The ( orpor;, lion (in- station —;i brick building with a. slate roof —was demolished entirely. A man who was cienninti the engine (J. Phillipson) was swept away by the flood and drowned. The corporation store in James street was also washed out. and a cart which is stored there was swept away. This ai'iernoon the body of a man was found a mile away from the town under some dcbr.'s.

"Houses were swept away." said another informant, "the brick walls simply subsiding in the water owing to the violence of tho floods. In places they 'became mere heaps of bricks in the water. Trees in the gardens were uprooted and swept away, and walh and fences went down like children'sand castles before the tide. The waters rose as hitcli as the walls of Louth's historic old church. Numbers of people were trapped like rats in a cage by the water in some of the lower floors of the dwellings. "Those who had the time took 'refuge in the upper storeys and 011 the roofs. But unhappily the torrent was so swift that in many instances Ihe people had no time to do this, and the rush of water was so strong that they lost their lives, either by drowning or by the fall of debris, while making vain efforts to escape.

"Some idea of the force of the wafer anil its volume is given bv the fact that motor c-irs which had been washed off the roadways and swept into the streams came floating into the town." A surveyor wlio made careful observations, states that the disaster was caused by the sudden bursting of a waterspout over the hamlet of Rcamblesby. near Louth, which caused the Lud to rise Oft in ten minutes.''

Writing on tlic following day the correspondent savs :

Behind a scarlet, dawn this morning I followed across fen land the terrible track of devastation marked out by the week-end storm and what is here popularly described as a. cloudburst. The scenes in Loutli itself this morning were pitiable to witness. It is stated on reliable authority that- the number of homeless persons and those who have suffered through housing damage in Lincolnshire is close upon ]OOO. This of course includes a wide neighborhood of many miles over which the floods travelled. A tour round Louth this morning showed how swiftly had the disaster fallen. Amongst the earlier destruction was* that- at the Cedars, a part of the river where Tennyson wrote some famous vers*?'. The paper-mill at West-gate Bridge was a ' ; ccne of desolation. Where the fire station had stood was a- huge mass of bricks. Family Bibles lay in the gutter with dead pigs, broken pianos and china vases. Household goods had been swept helter skelter into the roadways. Some houses in Ramsgate had been completely obliterated as though they had been punched out- by some giant ha.nd. An upper storey torn rudely open revealed a feather bedstead standing upright unon the hanging floor.

Tons of debris were ' everywhere amongst the six inches- of black silted mud. efforts to clear away which had been made by the fire brigade with hose pipes. One of the fire engines, by the way. was found half under the fire shed. The debris included motor cars, pianos, harmoniums, chairs, 'furniture, and bedding.

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

THE LOUTH FLOOD., Oamaru Mail, Volume XLIV, Issue 14751, 29 July 1920

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THE LOUTH FLOOD. Oamaru Mail, Volume XLIV, Issue 14751, 29 July 1920

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