Prospect of repeating Christmas flooding trauma still 'worrying' 11 months on

Charlotte Taylor hailed the community response after her home in Topcroft flooded overnight into Christmas Eve.

Charlotte Taylor hailed the community response after her home in Topcroft flooded overnight into Christmas Eve. - Credit: Charlotte Taylor

The devastation caused by "traumatic" flooding on Christmas Eve is still fresh in the memory for many as the weather begins to turn again.

Dozens of residents around Bungay and the surrounding villages were forced to barricade or flee their homes as torrential downpours dampened the festive spirit.

The flooding happened at the worst possible time for Topcroft resident Charlotte Taylor, with herself and two of her three children testing positive for Covid, while her eldest child was waiting for a test.

Charlotte Taylor, with children Max Austin, Evie Austin, and Hattie Austin. 

Charlotte Taylor, with children Max Austin, Evie Austin, and Hattie Austin. - Credit: Charlotte Taylor

The family were forced to watch helplessly as heavy downpours flooded their home, as neighbours sprang into action from the outside.

Miss Taylor said: "It was an interesting Christmas, but it went from bad to worse because the day after Boxing Day I ended up in hospital with Covid.

"Because we all had Covid one after the other, no one could come in the house to assess the damage until we were all out of isolation in January.

"We were left with a huge mess. The carpets had to go, tiles and plaster too.

"We had to clean up the best we could ourselves and just live with the damage.

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"We had dehumidifiers in for about two weeks, which made home schooling interesting.

Charlotte Taylor's Topcroft home flooded twice overnight into Christmas Eve. 

Charlotte Taylor's Topcroft home flooded twice overnight into Christmas Eve. - Credit: Charlotte Taylor

"The house wasn't dry until late January."

The family then faced the added struggle of finding someone to carry out repairs, with so many homes affected meaning many companies were booked up by the time the damage was assessed.

Miss Taylor grew up in the home, which flooded when she was nine in 1992.

Max Austin, Evie Austin and Hattie Austin outside their Topcroft home. 

Max Austin, Evie Austin and Hattie Austin outside their Topcroft home. - Credit: Charlotte Taylor

She said: "We were quite fortunate we could live with the damage.

"I looked back through some photos of it the other day and I was quite shocked when I saw it and how quickly it happened.

"The thought that it might happen again is quite worrying.

"Our neighbour has cleared out a ditch to help with the flow, but the beck goes underneath the house and there's not a huge amount we can do to modify it, so we have to hope it doesn't happen again."

Former Bungay mayor Sue Collins was one of many residents across both sides of the Norfolk-Suffolk border affected by the flooding in the early hours of Christmas Eve.

After having to move into temporary accommodation, she only returned home in July.

Former Bungay mayor Sue Collins.

Former Bungay mayor Sue Collins, who only returned to her home in July after the flooding on Christmas Eve. - Credit: Bungay Town Council

She said: "The whole of the downstairs had to be completely gutted.

"It was really quite traumatic and we were in temporary accommodation for quite some time, and I certainly wouldn't want to go through it again.

"We will be more nervous now when the weather comes again.

"What we haven't got at the moment is a feeling of confidence that it was a one-off.

"We were one of the fortunate ones because we had insurance, but I am aware there were others who didn't.

"The River Waveney doesn't recognise boundaries but I think there was a bit of a mismatch with different responses based on whether you're in Norfolk or Suffolk.

"The relevant authorities have been working to be better coordinated."

At the time, East Suffolk Council were criticised locally for not providing sandbags, although a council spokesperson confirmed this was policy across the county, and remains in place this winter.

They said: "Sandbags do not provide protection during flooding as water can get into houses through many routes.

"Local authorities in Suffolk do not provide sandbags to protect individual properties, but instead use these limited resources in bulk to raise and repair defences or divert water away from groups of properties.

"We strongly recommend that residents check their property's flood risk and, if appropriate, use purpose-made flood protection products.”

Guidance on the council's website adds sandbags could make flooding worse if they become contaminated with sewage.

Earlier this month, the River Waveney Trust was awarded £8,000 in National Lottery funding for a project aimed at stopping severe flooding in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The strategies are all designed to slow down the time it takes for water to find its way down the Waveney Valley and into the river.