Flooded river causes havoc to Tiverton businesses
BUSINESSES on an industrial estate next to the River Exe are counting the cost of flooding which has seen them picking up mops and discarding stock while everyone else enjoyed a festive break.
The petrol station, forecourt and car park at Morrisons store in Tiverton was under four feet of water following unprecedented rain.
While an army of staff and contractors worked tirelessly to ensure the supermarket's petrol station could re-open, those at smaller businesses elsewhere on the Kennedy Way industrial estate in the Mid Devon town said they are facing a longer struggle to recover.
Among the worst affected traders was Farm Flowers, which lost around 100 orders which were set to be delivered or collected in the two days before Christmas but which could not be saved.
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Bob Postlethwaite, from Farm Flowers, said his stock rooms had been "completely eliminated" by the water. Following days of clearing up, a temporary space has been created in which they can make up orders in the dry.
He said: "There are eight businesses here in this section of the estate, and the total loss of business could be as much as £1m I reckon."
Alan Collins, from West Exe Motors, which has been trading in Tiverton for 29 years, said he had lost around 20 cars which had been written off by water damage.
He said: "You may be able to start the cars and drive them, but we couldn't sell the vehicles knowing how high the water got, because there could be problems with the electrics or the airbag mechanisms or all sorts of other things."
Mr Collins's own E-type Jaguar was also stored in the workshop and has been badly damaged, and the business remains closed while the reception area dries out.
He said the flooding, which he first saw the extent of on Sunday morning, had disrupted his staff's festive plans too.
"The staff have all been coming in over Christmas to help with the clear-up," he said.
"They had Christmas Day off and that was it, since then everyone has been helping. It wasn't just dirty water, it was mixed with oil because we had an oil drainer which tipped over too."
Mr Collins said it could take weeks to restore the business to its pre-flood state, with the likely loss to the business approaching a six-figure sum.
Nikki Shaw, who runs Twyford Coal and Country Supplies, was also a victim of the flooding.
"We are a family business and we deliver pet food and coal to a lot of the local farms," she said.
"I like to think I know all my customers and exactly how much their order is each week, but I am so worried with everything that is happening that we might let one of our customers down, and some of them are quite elderly and really depend on us."
She said with the help of staff and friends, they had filled four skips with discarded water-damaged stock.
Skips were also needed at Market Carpets in Kennedy Way, which was flooded and had to close while ruined stock was removed.
"We have had a disaster – the store is completely flooded, said company director Mike Burch.
"All the stock is drenched and we have piles of carpets destroyed.
The petrol station at Morrisons reopened after staff pulled together to remove all water, repair damage and thoroughly clean the site, replacing most of the electrical items in the kiosk and re-stocking food and supplies.
Store general manager Glen Allen said: "The sheer volume of rain over the last week caused the River Exe to flood the station and we had no option but to close the site for the safety of both customers and colleagues.
"We've all worked hard to get everything in working order again to serve our customers. It's a real testament to the staff here and everyone who has helped to get us open again so quickly, considering it was under four feet of water a week ago."
Tiverton Town assistant manager Hedley Steele has expressed his gratitude to the 30 or so volunteers who gave up their Boxing Day afternoon to help in the clean-up operation at Ladysmead.
Flooding left the Tiverton Town pitch and changing rooms under a foot of water, meaning the club's matches against Clevedon Town and Paulton Rovers were postponed, although Steele was optimistic Saturday's clash with Bishops Cleeve would go ahead.
Many areas in and around Exeter remain affected by flooding. As reported, residents at Stoke Canon, had to flee their homes before Christmas with around 20 families needing to be evacuated.
The main railway line connecting the South West to the rest of England reopened on Friday, December 28 after closing for a week due to flooding. The line was blocked between Tiverton Parkway and Exeter St David's due to flooding at Cowley Bridge, with replacement coach services running to and from the station but there is still some disruption for passengers travelling on the Tarka Line, which connects Exeter and Barnstaple via Crediton, which remains closed at time of going to press.