Volunteers and staff respond to unprecedented storms

Published: 14 February 2014 11:36 CET

As storms and widespread flooding continue to spell misery for thousands across the UK, the British Red Cross is on the front-line helping people in the worst affected areas.

Hurricane-force winds battered parts of the country yesterday, adding to the chaos already caused by some of the worst flooding ever seen in the UK.

The British Red Cross has been responding since the crisis started, helping communities in Somerset, Kent and Surrey.

On Wednesday, as many areas in Wales were hit by 100mph winds, the British Red Cross was out in force. In Anglesey, where a road bridge closure left passengers stranded, our emergency teams gave out hot food and drinks, and advice.

And in South Wales, where strong winds led to power cuts, teams of volunteers carried out welfare checks on vulnerable rural residents.

In Somerset, the Red Cross’ monster-sized Unimog truck – which is custom-built to get through floodwater – has been kept very busy for over a week now.

Volunteer drivers are currently working flat out to deliver food and supplies to several villages that have been entirely cut off by floodwater.

The Red Cross truck, designed specifically to deal with flood waters.

Throughout the Thames Valley area, where rising waters have caused widespread difficulties, the Red Cross has been working round the clock. Our volunteers are running two 24-hour rest centres – at Addlestone and New Haw – in Surrey.

Volunteer teams are carrying out welfare checks on vulnerable residents, and one team recently helped evacuate three housebound pensioners after flooding in Wraysbury.

And since those on the front-line need to keep their energy up for the rescue effort, our volunteers are also running a 24-hour hot food facility in Windsor to support exhausted fire and rescue staff.

The ongoing crisis has placed enormous strain on emergency services across the country, but we are on hand to offer support.

Following a request from South East Coast Ambulance Service, the Red Cross has been transporting patients to hospitals and collecting vulnerable residents caught up in rising floodwater.

We have also deployed an ambulance and two patient transport vehicles to help manage demand at Royal United Hospital in Bath.

With tens of thousands of people caught up in the flooding, new requests for help are coming in almost every hour – but fortunately the Red Cross has the resources and reach to respond.

At 5am yesterday morning (13/02), an emergency team opened a new rest centre in Croydon to help a group of residents (and a cat) following an evacuation from a water-damaged block of flats. In Gloucestershire, an emergency team helped evacuate two people from a flooded riverside home in Sandhurst.

And, amid all the storm and flood activity, Red Cross business as usual still continues. In Gillingham earlier today, a Red Cross fire and emergency support team were called out to help 30 people caught up in a flat fire.

Simon Lewis, head of emergency planning and response, said: “This problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon, but people should be assured that we’re in it for the long haul.

“As long as people are in crisis and needing a helping hand, you’ll be able to depend on Red Cross volunteers and staff to offer support.”

Read more about the floods from a responder's perspective at the British Red Cross blog.