Dozens of people have been trapped in Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre overnight after torrential rain caused flooding throughout the city and transport chaos across large parts of northern England.
Heavy rain across the region on Thursday made roads impassable and forced the cancellation of train services, while 35 homes were evacuated in Mansfield after a mudlside.
More flooding was expected on Friday but the downpours were set to ease later in the day. The Met Office’s amber weather warning for heavy rain covering parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands is in place until 6am and communities were braced for more more evacuations.
Shoppers attending Meadowhall’s Christmas Live event were stranded in the complex after a nearby river burst its banks and flooded the surrounding area.
Roads around the centre, including the M1 motorway, quickly became gridlocked and police advised people to remain inside.
Harriet Fullen, 16, who travelled to the event from Lincoln by train with her friends, said they had queued all afternoon at Meadowhall for Christmas event, which was due to feature acts including Ella Henderson, Tom Zanetti and Jonas Blue, before being told at 5.20pm that it had been called off.
With many roads still blocked and trains and trams to the city cancelled, they were among 50-60 people who were forced to stay the night as water started coming into the shopping centre “from the lower level doors”.
“We had to go and buy our own blankets and pillows and food and drink to supply ourselves, not to mention the new outfits we had to buy due to how wet through ours were from the day,” she said by email from the centre Oasis dining area where most of the 50-60 people had taken shelter.
The student, who is studying health and social care at Riseholme College, said people were stuck inside with most trying to sleep in the centre’s dining quarter.
“We have then not had many updates given to us and nor do we know what it’s like outside. We are stuck here until the morning awaiting information of whether we are able to leave tomorrow or not. People have gone to restaurants to sleep on the booths as all of us are shattered.”
Ethan Rylett, a 23-year-old sales representative at a dentistry supply business near Meadowhall, said he began to notice the rising water level from his office around noon, and was dismissed from work in the early afternoon.
“I’m stressed about the impact it could have on the business,” he said. “We did as much as we can to get as much stock from ground level but we’ve got a lot of technical equipment that’s built in to the workstations,” he added.
Students in university accommodation on the banks of the river were forced to abandon their cars, as vehicles were submerged by flooding in the underground car park.
“A lot of people who own cars here are very stressed,” Lucy Pearson, a 20-year-old student said. “It looks like there are cars that are being consumed by the water and are now in too deep to be retrieved.”
Later on Thursday night, Meadowhall, which flooded in 2007, said most people had left the mall by the time it officially closed at 10pm “but there are a small number of people who have chosen to stay with us for the time being. We will continue to look after them until they can return home safely”.
It said the floods had not breached the building.
While Sheffield was badly hit, South Yorkshire police said there were also “significant issues” in Rotherham and Doncaster, with Bentley, Toll Bar and Scawthorpe the worst affected areas.
The force said: “The local authority are asking that people do not drive or leave their properties unless necessary.”
Police were also called to the Parkgate shopping park in Rotherham on Thursday night, amid reports shoppers were trapped inside due to flood waters. South Yorkshire police tweeted that they were working to move “a number of people” who were stranded in the complex to “a place of safety”.
The highest rainfall in the country on Thursday was recorded at Swineshaw in the Peak District, which had 112mm in the 24 hours to 2am.
“There were a lot of other places that had 80mm or more, especially in Yorkshire,” a Met Office spokesman said. “The rains should clear by lunchtime, with a fine weekend ahead, but the flood warnings will stay in place for quite a while.”
Concerns were also growing in the Calder Valley in west Yorkshire as river levels began to rise. Precautionary flood barriers were put in place in Mytholmroyd, which was badly hit in the 2015 Boxing Day floods.
The weather has also caused train services to be cancelled and Northern Rail issued a “do not travel” warning to commuters using three routes, saying flooding had closed the lines between Sheffield and Gainsborough, Sheffield and Lincoln and Hebden Bridge and Manchester Victoria.
By 10.30pm on Thursday, the Environment Agency had issued 98 flood warnings and 117 flood alerts.
Further south in Nottinghamshire, police, firefighters and council officials were called to Bank End Close in Mansfield just before 5pm on Thursday following concerns for the safety of people living in the houses after a mudslide.