Communities count the cost of Storm Dennis

Residents returning to flood-hit homes in South Wales have described scenes of utter devastation after Storm Dennis.

Residents in Neath Port Talbot, and the towns and villages across Rhondda Cynon Taff and Monmouthshire, are counting the cost of the damage caused after a month’s worth of rain fell in 48 hours.

One of the worst-hit areas was the village of Nantgarw, near Cardiff, where entire streets were left underwater from the early hours of Sunday morning.

Jeanette and Rachel Cox were evacuated from their home in Oxford Street after waking at 4am to the floodwater.

Rachel Cox inspects the damage to her home in Oxford street, Nantgarw, following Storm Dennis (Ben Birchall/PA).
Rachel Cox inspects the damage to her home in Oxford street, Nantgarw, following Storm Dennis (Ben Birchall/PA)

Mrs Cox, 68, said the only object that survived downstairs was a wedding photograph she had kept on the windowsill.

It shows her and husband Bill, who died from cancer in 2009, on their wedding day in March 1971.

“My daughter woke me up and said the electric had gone, then she looked down the stairs and saw water,” Mrs Cox said.

“It was terrifying. We went to the back window and Rachel screamed. The neighbour next door shouted back ‘don’t panic’.

“It was pitch black. All you could hear was the water running. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was very frightened.”

Mrs Cox and her daughter were evacuated on the back of a lorry with their dog Willow at about 11.30am and returned the following morning to survey the damage.

“Everything downstairs has completely gone,” said Mrs Cox, a charity shop manager.

“The water has moved things I didn’t think could move. I think there are just two cupboards standing – the rest is gone.

“My wedding picture was on the window sill luckily. My daughter went down and found it, it’s not damaged at all. I’m very pleased to have it.”

Rachel Cox wept as she was reunited with her brand new car, an MG ZS she bought in November.

Miss Cox's new car floated away from flooding hit her home in Nantgarw (Ben Birchall/PA)
Miss Cox’s new car floated away when flooding hit her home in Nantgarw (Ben Birchall/PA)

The car had floated from outside her home to a nearby roundabout.

“It is the first brand-new car I’ve ever owned and now it’s a write-off,” the training manager said.

“It was parked literally outside here. It has floated all this way.”

She described wading through thigh-high water in the darkness after waking up at 4am on Sunday.

“The most petrifying part was watching the water rise and the speed it was going,” she said.

“I was shouting ‘help, help, help’ out the window. There was about six to seven feet of water before it started to recede.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Mick Antoniw, the AM for Pontypridd, visited flood-hit residents in Nantgarw to see for themselves the devastation.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford (centre) and Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw (right) see the damage to resident Caroline Jones's home in Nantgarw (Ben Birchall/PA).
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford (centre) and Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw (right) see the damage to resident Caroline Jones’s home in Nantgarw (Ben Birchall/PA)

Caroline Jones, 56, showed Mr Drakeford the damage in her home.

Her partner, Richard Addicock, 55, rescued their dog Mabel from the flooded bathroom in the early hours of Sunday.

“I had to swim down, break the door open and get Mabel,” Mr Addicock said.

“I thought she had drowned. She weighs 29kg and is solid. I dragged her up the stairs. We were then rescued on the boat.”

He spotted Mr Drakeford walking along Oxford Street and asked him to see their home.

“He was good to stop – it’s not his fault,” he added.

Friends and family helped to move thousands of pounds of ruined stock from Celtic Flooring in Nantgarw.

Some areas of the shop are inaccessible due to stacks of wood flooring at risk of falling down.

Storm Dennis 48 hour rainfall totals
(PA Graphics)

Katherine Williams, whose husband and brother run the business, estimated that there was more than £40,000 worth of damage.

“Everything is ruined,” she said.

“We can’t go in one room because it has started to fall in.”

Police declared a major incident and a severe flood warning – meaning a danger to life – was enforced with hundreds of people evacuated from their homes across the South Wales valleys.

Natural Resources Wales described Storm Dennis as an “extremely severe weather event”.

“Storm Dennis brought significant rainfall totals, particularly across the Brecon Beacons and the South Wales valleys,” a spokesman said.

“Our provisional data shows that the River Taff at Pontypridd reached the highest level for over 40 years – higher than the 1979 flood by nearly a metre.”

Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by flooding over the weekend, in what has been an extremely severe weather event.

— Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru | Natural Resources Wales (@NatResWales) February 17, 2020

Local businesses are collecting donations for people who have lost everything and over a dozen online fundraising appeals have been launched – raising nearly £30,000 in less than 24 hours.

There are cancellations and significant delays on rail services across Wales and many roads remain blocked in South and Mid Wales by floods and landslips.

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