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Floods chaos: Lyme Regis left reeling after 'worst' flooding
Lyme Regis businesses and homes have been mopping up after the worst flooding in living memory.
Volunteer coastguards and the RNLI crews were kept busy as floodwaters rose.
Peter Pritchard, Lyme Regis coastguard sector manager, said volunteers helped the fire service move furniture to higher ground in Charmouth.
He said: “We went out primarily to offer security to the fire service and gave them advice when they should be retiring when the water got above their knees.
“You have to make a decision to retire before you put yourself in danger.
“Back in Lyme Regis we helped monitor what was going on in the River Lym.
“There were some concerns about one or two people but they decided to stay where they were and just move to higher levels in their houses.
“We kept a watching brief at The Mill and gave a hand to offer protection with sandbags and we dealt with a landslip over on Monmouth Beach.
“There was some concern about whether there might be a landslip behind the beach huts behind the harbourmaster’s store.
“One of our team is a geologist so he went and had a look and said there was no immediate danger.
“I have only been here since 1997 but I have never seen it so bad. Team members who have lived here all their lives have never seen it so bad.”
He said another hour of rain and the situation would have been much worse.
“We just about got out of jail, but it was bad enough.”
Lyme Regis harbourmaster Grahame Forshaw said Saturday was a long day, starting when he went to the Cobb at 7am to see how bad the tide was.
He said: “The gale was not forecast to be that strong but I was recording gusts of 35 knots.”
As he watched he saw Steve Sweet’s boat Amaretto III break free from its moorings.
With no time to get his own launch he called the coastguard and the lifeboat crews but by then the boat had washed up on the beach.
The RNLI tractor was used to stabilise the boat with a strong cable and then rescuers used a crane and a boat cradle to drag it back to the harbour.
He said the boat only had minimal damage but it was a lucky escape.
He said: “Had the wind had more easterly in it she could have been dashed on to the rocks at the end of the north wall or any more west and it would have ended up on Lucy’s Ledge and smashed to pieces.”
The RNLI and coastguards also made sure the River Lym was clear of debris.
Mr Forshaw added: “I have nothing but praise for them, they turned out and did their job and for many of them it was a long and tiring day.”
On Sunday the lifeboat crew joined in a fundraising event in Beer and while there were called to help rescue one of the seven boats washed out to sea from the River Axe. They found it upturned fixed to the seabed off Beer and towed it back to Lyme harbour.
Town clerk Mike Lewis said the major landslip on Monmouth beach had trapped a car behind it and advice from geotechnical experts advised nothing could be done to move the earth until it had dried up in case there were more slips.
He said: “I think the lady whose car it is will be hiring a vehicle.”
He said with the sheer volume of water and debris hitting bridges in the town they would all need to be inspected and damage to footpaths had been reported to Dorset County Council.
The clean up of mud in the council’s car parks was due to be finished by yesterday.
'Frightening' experience at Town Mill
TOWN Mill manager Sarah Clarke, staff and volunteers had a long job clearing up after the flood but it was hoped all the businesses would be open by today.
But she said the amount of water was frightening and had left a major clear up to get the water wheel working again.
She said: “There is enough rubble and sand in the leet to build three new houses. Every year we clear the leet of silt but normally it is a smooth concrete bottom but now it looks like a river bed with all the stones down there.
“That is going to take us the longest to do. Until we get that sorted we can’t get the water wheel going and we can’t generate the hydroelectricity again.”
She said everyone had been marvellous offering help but that it had been a frightening experience.
She said: “The coastguards tied some tape around a post and said if the water gets to this level the whole area has to be evacuated because at that point they could not guarantee the structural safety of all the buildings. That was the worst part about it.
“Local residents and volunteers helped rescue what they could. It was marvellous what they did.
“There was water in the galleries, the brewery, the pottery, all of the ground floor businesses were effected.”
Mill café manager Nikki Milican said they were having breakfast at eight and noticed how high the water was and within an hour her brother, café owner Paul Milican, was trying to hold the door shut and keep the deluge out with both his feet.
She said: “It came through the back doors and into the café itself, it was pretty dramatic.
“We all got on our hands and knees and did the clear out and psychologically it was good to get open again the next day.
“It was horrible having to lift all the equipment out and clean up all the mud.”