Police have declared a major incident in South Wales after severe flooding from Storm Dennis overnight.
Streets have been evacuated with the help of a lifeboat in some of the worst-hit areas and people moved to emergency rescue centres after their properties and businesses were devastated by water from overflowing rivers.
On Sunday afternoon South Wales Police said they had declared a major incident as firefighters and rescue crews continued to help communities who have been cut off due to the flood water.
Assistant Chief Constable Jennifer Gilmer, said: “I would like to reassure the public who have been affected that we are doing everything we can, and will continue to work tirelessly until all risks dissipate.
“I would like to thank all our emergency services and rescue partners for their assistance and professionalism.
“I have very clear advice for everybody, which is not to panic, and to be sensible, stay well clear of any danger such as streams and rivers, and contact us in an emergency.”
The force have told people in affected areas to stay indoors unless a journey was necessary, avoid waterways, and monitor local and social media for updates.
Advice for people in affected areas 👇
⚠️ Remain indoors, unless your journey is absolutely necessary.⚠️ Steer well clear of dangers such as waterways.⚠️ In an emergency, dial 9️⃣9️⃣9️⃣ – let highly skilled emergency service and rescue staff deal with incidents safely.
— South Wales Police (@swpolice) February 16, 2020
Ms Gilmer later told the PA news agency she felt her force had done enough to warn the public of the risk of flooding, stating that the subsequent rainfall was “worse than people had anticipated”.
She said: “When things began to escalate overnight we were very well placed to escalate our response and get to as many people as possible.”
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service area manager Ian Greenman said the the service had received an “unprecedented” 1,300 calls during Sunday and had carried out 76 life rescues.
One of the worst-hit areas in South Wales was the village of Nantgarw, Rhondda Cynon Taff, near Cardiff, which had seen entire streets left underwater since the early hours of Sunday morning.
Emergency teams including firefighters and volunteers had been evacuating the village’s Oxford Street since around 5am and were still working midday on Sunday.
Paul Mason, group manager of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said the scene his team had faced was the worst he had experienced in his 31-year career.
He said: “We started getting calls at 5am.
“The water was up to the window sills in some instances, so we sent a number of boats and crews down here to assist with our partner agencies, systematically going through each of the houses, knocking on doors, trying to prioritise individuals.
“This weather is unprecedented.
“We haven’t seen this, it’s incredible, and it’s right throughout the South Wales Valleys.
“In my 31 years in the service this is the worst I’ve ever seen.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
He said some residents had refused to leave their homes despite being encouraged to, but would be monitored for their safety.
Resident Greg Curtis, 68, was rescued by lifeboat from the street around 1pm, said he and his wife were first woken by neighbours banging his home at 4am on Sunday morning, and described the incident as a “nightmare”.
#StormDennis continues to affect the UK. Here are the latest rainfall totals (all in south Wales) and highest gusts from the storm 👇
— Met Office (@metoffice) February 16, 2020
He said: “The water was about two feet up to my house.
“It just came really quick.
“I feel a bit miffed, but it is what it is.
“I’ve lived here for 46 years and we’ve never had anything like this here.
“When the water comes down I’ll go back and then we’ll get into the insurance part and fight to get whatever.”
Melanie Hughes, 38, was also evacuated by lifeboat with along with her husband and two daughters, said she was awoken by shouting and car alarms in the early hours, and said many of their family’s possessions had been lost.
She said: “Everyone’s safe, which is the main thing. We were lucky.
“But our cars, kitchen, furniture, it’s all gone.
⚠️Provisional rainfall for last 48 hours (12pm today) ⚠️💦Maerdy (Rhondda) 163mm💦Crai Reservoir (Upper Usk) 162mm💦Tyn y Waun (Rhonnda) 156mm💦Nant Yr Isfa (Cynon) 154mm💦Storey Arms (Taff/Usk – Brecon Beacons) 135mm💦Hirwaun (Cynon) 135mm https://t.co/s7p34zZnKM #flooding pic.twitter.com/eAom1f9NfI
— Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru | Natural Resources Wales (@NatResWales) February 16, 2020
“It’s going to be a couple of months of hard work, now.
“It was filthy, there was nothing to salvage.”
Katherine Murphy, another evacuated resident, said: “Our downstairs is just a total mess.
“It’s filthy everywhere, it smells, it’s horrible.
“I went downstairs about 5am because an alarm was going, and I saw there was water coming in downstairs. It was really quick.
“Outside the cars were under water.”
Chris Davies, director of the Arc Training company in the nearby Treforest industrial estate, said the bottom floor of his business was “totally under water”, and said he was concerned whether the incident would be covered by insurance.
He said: “My thought now is whether this is covered by insurance, because it’s a natural occurrence.
“It could mean a loss of business for us. It will take weeks to get back now. By the time you get your insurance claim in, get money back in, buy all new stuff, start trading again, you’re talking thousands.”
Elsewhere, the town of Pontypridd was also hit by flooding after the River Taff burst its banks, forcing shops and businesses to remain closed on its main shopping street while cars were left stranded in roads.
In Swansea, a man was declared dead after being pulled from the River Tawe near Trebanos Rugby Club.
Dyfed-Powys Police said that a man in his 60s was seen entering the river near Gorsedd Park in Ystradgynlais area at about 10am on Sunday morning.
The force said he was rescued further along the river, but despite paramedics battling to save his life he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious or being linked to the bad weather.
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant set up a crowdfunding page to raise a target of £3,000 for residents affected by flooding in his constituency.
I have set up a crowdfunder to support those affected by the floods in the #Rhondda.
If you can, please donate and RT:https://t.co/h1F4fObhP0
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) February 16, 2020
The Labour MP wrote: “Seeing the floods devastate our communities is truly heartbreaking.
“Homes and businesses across the Rhondda have been affected by the winds and rain of Storm Dennis and many families will have lost everything.
“We’ve been inundated with offers of support and help. At present the emergency services are advising volunteers to stay safe but will require support in the aftermath.”
In Carmarthen, west Wales, the RSPCA had to save a flock of sheep who were stranded on farmland.
Jason Finch, RSPCA inspector national water rescue coordinator, said: “We’re on full alert status. We’ve responded to more than 50 major incidents in just the past few hours today.”