‘Our world just crashed’: Why Rhondda Cynon Taf flood victims are calling for an inquiry

Flood damage in Rhondda Cynon Taf:

Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter

Residents who suffered as a result of the flooding in Rhondda Cynon Taf this year are backing calls for an independent inquiry.

Yvonne Hodder from Pentre and Debbie Mackey from Treorchy both support the need for an independent inquiry into the 2020 floods in RCT which Plaid Cymru are calling for.

Mrs Hodder and her husband Philip Hodder live on Lewis Street in Pentre and had been renovating the house for a year and were just about to move in when it flooded on February 16.

They had started moving stuff in like the kitchen, cooker and tumble dryer already.

Mrs Hodder said: “Our world just crashed. We just didn’t know where to turn. Our money was quite depleted and we still had to pay for the house that we were renting.”

They didn’t move in until the end of May meaning they had to pay three months extra rent they didn’t expect to have to pay as well as cleaning up the new house and replacing things they had lost.

They saved the cooker, lost the tumble dryer and were unable to afford to replace the settees.

They had bought a microwave, kettle and toaster which all had to go and they lost a vacuum cleaner.

There was lots of stuff they had to throw away and they still had some things in boxes with the water going right through everything.

Mrs Hodder said: “It knocked us for six. We didn’t really know how we were going to manage to be honest with you. We called family and friends to come and help.”

There are still things to do including painting of walls and sanding down of doors but they just haven’t had the money.

She said: “We need someone to own up so we can get the money. We want a review into it because we don’t want it to happen ever again.”

“We are all still living on edge with it. We need an inquiry. We need to find out who was responsible so things will be put in place so it won’t ever happen again.”

She said if the tree branches and logs hadn’t blocked the culverts in the area the water would have flowed away and before February her street had only flooded once in 40 years.

Mrs Hodder said: “We just need to get to the bottom of it to find out who is to blame.”

Mrs Hodder added that during the floods the community, in true Rhondda fashion, banded together and all helped each other but she said some people haven’t been able to move back into their homes yet or get building work done because of Covid.

Mr and Mrs Hodder have had help with floodgates from the local Canolfan Pentre but she said: “Every time it is raining we think ‘Oh God he we go again.’

“We weren’t sleeping in the night. It is going to remain with us for a long time. We need reassurance and proof it won’t happen again.”

 

Flooding in Treorchy in June

Debbie Mackey lives on High Street in Treorchy and spoke about how flooding later in the year had affected her.

There was also flooding in RCT in June this year and Ms Mackey gave her account of what happened on her street in Treorchy.

She had been completely flooded back in 2013 and had been forced to move out for six months because of a Welsh Water issue.

During Storm Dennis in February, she said they had no floods on her street and asked if the flooding was supposed to be everywhere why didn’t they have water there?

But in June this year, Ms Mackey said they had 20 minutes of rain and residents were flushing water out of their houses and they had to stop the traffic because the cars were making waves against their doors.

Ms Mackey said they were told the pumping stations were working but that there was still water on the road.

Ms Mackey said: “This can’t keep happening all the time.”

She added: “I can’t understand why it keeps happening. There has got to be a reason why.

“We were promised we would have flood doors back in 2013. Something needs to be done now. They are forgetting us at the top end (of the valley).

“Every time it rains I am a bag of nerves watching this weather.

“Welsh Water is saying it’s the council, the council is saying it’s Welsh Water. Someone needs to come in and assess it that has nothing to do with Welsh Water or the council.

“This can’t go on for much longer. Only this year I have been able to have insurance.

“We can’t live like that knowing our houses aren’t insured.”

Although her house is insured now she said it is £1,000 more than it would otherwise be and that it’s unfair for people who live in the street.

Calls for an independent inquiry

Plaid Cymru have done their own report into the 2020 flooding and a survey involving 137 people found all of them supported an independent inquiry.

As well as the independent inquiry, the report also calls for increased investment in flood prevention and protection, ensuring compensation is available for flood victims and considering giving responsibility for flooding in Wales to one body.

An independent inquiry into flooding has been scheduled for debate in the Senedd on Wednesday, December 9 after just under 6,000 people signed a petition.

Heledd Fychan, Plaid Cymru RCT Councillor for Pontypridd Town said: “The testimony contained in this report is heart-breaking to read. It clearly shows that lives were shattered by the floods, and that the impact and trauma remain to this day.

“From speaking to many victims, I know that they will not find peace until they receive the answers they deserve, and measures are put in place to safeguard their homes and businesses. Nothing done to date achieves this, and given that extreme weather is far more likely in the future due to the climate crisis, this must be urgently addressed.

“A public inquiry – which has been unanimously backed by people surveyed in this report – is the best way to ensure that the voices and experiences of victims are heard, to help inform how lives, homes and businesses can be safeguarded in the future.

“Labour politicians who have opposed a public inquiry to date should read this report, and urgently reconsider their position. Whilst urgent remedial works continue, it is absolutely essential that we understand what went wrong and why. It is the only way we will secure justice for flood victims and be prepared for any future flooding.”

Labour’s stance

Responding to a recent vote against an independent inquiry at full council, Councillor Andrew Morgan, the Labour leader of RCT Council, said: “For me, a public inquiry would create an unnecessary distraction from the work which is already underway on the ground to repair the damage caused to infrastructure by Storm Dennis and to improve flood resilience in the future.

“Actions speak louder than words and work has already been completed or is underway on a number of important schemes, and the council’s own internal review processes will report to cabinet before Christmas.

“This work includes the development of a number of significant flood alleviation schemes which will completed over the next two years; these two years of practical action on the ground, which will deliver tangible real-life benefits for residents, could be lost to a public inquiry process, which is why Labour members did not support the inquiry call.

“A public inquiry would also come at significant expense – money which would be better spent protecting residents and communities against future severe weather events and responding to the future challenges of climate change.

“In response to the motion, I will be formally writing on behalf of the council to the First Minister to update on the progress being made and to ask the Welsh Government to consider what may be done differently to further improve the partnerships, planning and the future response of all public agencies in Wales.”

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