LETTER: The observations of a Boston flood volunteer


After a day working as a volunteer with the police in Boston today may I offer a few jottings about the Boston floods?

We were calling on houses in the flooded areas to see if help was needed. There were quite a few volunteers and a lot of policemen and women from all over the county. The operation was organised from the borough offices in West Street. Several councilors were there. The police were in charge and were well prepared with plans for the day and allocated tasks.

A number of things struck me through the day and afterwards:

The flooding was more widespread than I had thought - 46 streets were affected in a wide area around the town centre. It took a surprising time to assess the area affected. A large number of houses were flooded up to 1.5 meters. The distribution appeared arbitrary, with adjacent houses sometimes affected in different ways, but of course it was all down to water level and the way the properties were built. A few steps up prevented damage. The newer properties built to new standards resisted well, with electric meters and consumer units out of reach of the water. So too did the really old properties built by eye on the bumps of higher ground invisible to the casual glance.

Where the water had got in the damage was immense. Stuff just had to be thrown out. Any sort of equipment or electrical gear ruined. Carpets already stinking and beyond recovery. The houses will take many weeks to recover, perhaps months. There are still many houses without power or heat and not all the utility companies had been swift to respond.

People were helping each other. One local Boston lady said to me how kind and hard working and helpful the local Polish people had been. Good to hear. A lot of unselfish behaviour to be seen. Landlords and estate agents were also on the ground and helping.

The river walls which held back the water look rather inadequate, though they did the job up to a point. Some of them were leaking through the pointing during the peak water level. They wouldn’t have lasted long. The crowds watching and videoing from the dry side would have been swept away and some drowned in an instant if the wall had given way. People I spoke to were awe-struck by the power and speed of the flood which came over the top but it would have been catastrophic if a wall had gone. I feel they all need looking at again and perhaps strengthening.

Several people had been flooded by the bow wave from motorists speeding through the water. Inconsiderate or ignorant, I don’t know. It was also clear that not everyone listens to Radio Lincolnshire and some were completely unaware of the situation til the water arrived. Several times I heard folk say they wished the warning siren had been sounded. That’s worth thinking about.

I was left wondering why the Grand Sluice was not opened at the high point to allow water to flow upstream into the immense capacity of the Witham and its connections? I understand the difference in water level was considerable at the time. An answer from the Environment Agency would be great. Hope it wasn’t the fish they were thinking of - but that’s not fair!

The police were efficient and kind. They deserve our thanks. Also, the many ordinary people who gave their time and effort.

My feeling is that there are lessons to be learned and that we could be better prepared in future. Perhaps the borough may take the lead on this? The mayor has been very much in evidence throughout and has already shown leadership. Let’s hope we don’t have to face this again soon.

Martin Fairman

Sibsey Road, Boston