'It's beyond words': Little respite as Rotherham battles severe flooding

8 November 2019, 18:40 | Updated: 8 November 2019, 20:27

It's been a day of rain and rescue with little respite. 

In South Yorkshire, a month's worth of rain has fallen in 48 hours.

Emergency teams have had more than 1,200 calls, and they've rescued more than 100 people trapped in cars and buildings by the floods.

I got to Rotherham, in South Yorkshire, on Thursday night. And it was pouring.

It was hard to get anywhere. The local river, the River Don, had swelled in many places, and low-lying areas were totally submerged, blocking off big and small road alike.

Roads were flooding faster than police could properly tape them off.

I stopped where I could see a side road was totally blocked, close to the town centre.

Several cars had obviously tried to get through and had got stuck. Most were almost totally submerged and had already been abandoned but there was still one driver wading out to safety.

"I thought it was just a large puddle!", he said, now soaked up to the waist.

Shops on either side of the road had been flooded - including a carpet shop, a car dealership and a few restaurants.

Today, I went back to that road and met Farooq Sabir. He owns the takeaway and off-licence on the corner. It belongs to him and his brothers. The revenue from there supports six families.

"It's beyond words," he tells me. He's clearly exhausted. "I tried to get things out when the water started coming in but it came in too fast."

Mr Sabir only had time to switch off the electrics before it got too dangerous to stay inside.

And because he's not been able to turn the electricity back on, he can't open the automatic security shutters, and go inside.

"I can't even bear to think what it'll be like. The water already stinks outside, so inside it's just going to be awful."

There were breaks in the weather today, the sun even came out for a few hours.

Things, briefly, looked cheerier.

But when the rain came back, roads that were starting to clear quickly filled again. It's so saturated here right now that even brief drizzle looks threatening.

And what's annoying is seeing some people totally ignore the dangers.

I've watched as drivers plough through enormous flooded areas. It's like they see the weather as a chance to show off their 4x4s, showing how they can, or most often, can't cope with the rain.

Alex Johnson, the Deputy Chief Fire Officer at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, told me they have had problems with people behaving dangerously, going through floodwater and then getting stuck - putting themselves - and then rescue teams at risk.

There are positives though:

  • The rain will ease over the next few days. At the time of writing, the Environment Agency says the worst is over
  • Multi-million pound flood defences, put in place after the 2007 floods here, have worked. Given the volume of rainfall, this could have been a lot worse
  • As always, the community spirit that comes after flooding like this is heartening to see
  • My new wellies, which I bought when I started as Sky's North of England correspondent in August, are most definitely robust