‘Major incident’ declared as flood forces 1,000 people to flee caravan park

More than 1,000 people were forced to evacuate their caravan park homes as they were deluged by flooding just hours before Christmas day.

One man told of spending the night sleeping in his car as his Christmas feast went to ruin in the caravan park as power was cut out.

Emergency services declared a major incident as they ordered residents to flee around 500 caravans at the Northamptonshire site late on Christmas Eve.

A new mum and her young baby were among those plucked to safety from the site by teams paddling to their rescue.

Residents of the park at Billing Aquadrome had needed treatment for hypothermia, emergency services said last night.

Around 100 people with no alternative accommodation are spending Christmas at a Holiday Inn, Northants Police said.

Specialist water search teams last night urgently scoured 1,000 caravans at the site to ensure no one was trapped underwater.

One resident told Sky News he had spent the night sleeping in his car as he was out when he learned the river had burst its banks, and he could not return to the flooded park.

He said his Christmas Day food would be ruined as it had been prepared and in the fridge when power was cut to the site yesterday.

The man said: “Homeless, yes, on Christmas Eve. I had no expectation of that. There are many people I know… who have slept in their cars.

“Unbelievable circumstances on, of all (times), Christmas Day. And my food that I purchased that I was going to be preparing is now to waste.

“All the electrics have been cut to the park and m food was in the fridge. So a Christmas to remember.”

Police said in a tweet that the major incident had been downgraded as water levels receded.

But the flooding had left many residents who were taken to safety on boats stranded for Christmas.

The force tweeted this morning: “Most were able to find overnight accommodation with friends and family, with those affected given special dispensation in relation to Covid-19 restrictions.

“About 100 people were processed at Lings Forum before being transferred to the Holiday Inn in Bedford Rd for the night.”

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue said crews rescued three adults from a car partially submerged in a ditch and new mother and young baby.

Rescue teams battled against ‘extremely challenging’ conditions in the dark, in rising flood waters and cold temperatures, just hours before the clocked ticked over to Christmas Day.

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service reported no serious harm to residents, but ordered them to remain clear of the site this morning.

The service declared the major incident during last night’s emergency.

A huge emergency operation took place at Billing Aquadrome, to rescue more than 1,000 trapped people after hours of heavy rain.

Emergency crews were last night searching 1,100 caravans at the park, which was under around 5ft of water.

Five fire crews and four specialist water teams were deployed to Billing Aquadrome, in Great Billing.

Incident commander Phil Pells said his teams were having to search all the units on site in very challenging conditions, including rising flood waters and dropping temperatures.

He added: “I would urge anyone who is still on the site tonight to call, in the first instance, the site security team who will help us to locate you on the park.”

The Environment Agency said last night the flooding was triggered by heavy rain falling across the River Nene catchment over the past few days.

River levels peaked on Christmas Eve, sparking the evacuation order.

The agency warned last night: “There is now a severe risk to life due to the challenging evacuation conditions and potential for floating debris in flood water.”

A spokesperson for Northants Police said yesterday around 1,000 people were evacuated from caravans surrounded by water as high as 5ft deep in places.

Freezing temperatures were expected in the early hours, the force said.

“Some residents have presented with hypothermia. Emergency accommodation is being sourced in at least two leisure centres in Northampton.”

A statement from Billings Aquadrome reportedly said:”Park staff are doing everything that they can to aid and assist all holiday home owners during this unbelievably difficult time.

“It goes without saying that we are heartbroken to find ourselves in this position, and that we are extremely sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused. We thank you for your understanding and continued support.”

The floods came as the Met Office issued weather warnings for incoming Storm Bella.

The wild weather is set to bring heavy rain and storms from Boxing Day.

However parts of northern England were hit by rains and flooding on Christmas Eve, then a light dusting of snow this morning, as the weather pattern moves from north to south.