When natural disaster strikes, it’s always the smaller communities and locations who are left out in the general world discussion, and left to deal with the consequences of devastation alone.
It’s been heavily reported of the turmoil residents of the West Midlands are facing, especially focusing on more well-known locations such as Shrewsbury, Bewdley, Ironbridge and even Worcester – but smaller villages and towns are suffering equally at the hands of the devastation, and the voices of those residing in these smaller dwellings, aren’t being heard as loudly as they should be.
Headlines highlighting the horror at the River Severn’s ability to breach barriers and flood defences are forgetting one important factor – a lot of the affected communities aren’t even lucky enough to have ANY form of protection from the over-flowing river, making them victim to any and all flood damage without any prior prevention tactics.
As someone who grew up in Highley, a small village in Shropshire known for its coal-mining heritage, it’s unspeakably heartbreaking to see my local community torn away from their family homes due to flood damage, with small home-grown businesses at risk of losing everything they’ve worked generations to build.
This should never be a discussion of ‘well, it’s worse in XXX’, but instead the reminder that behind every natural disaster is hundreds of human beings whose livelihoods won’t easily recover.
Speaking to those directly affected by the extreme flooding, I was told by one resident Keely Pepperell: “It’s been pretty bad. We were blocked in [our homes] last week.” Keely described the detriment it has had to her partner and multiple others in the village who have been unable to work and provide due to essentially being stranded at the mercy of the River Severn’s rising water-flow.
In homes near to the river, the height of the over-flow is as tall as kitchen countertops, and this has extended not just in this small village community but also in neighbouring towns and villages, such as Bridgnorth and Coalport.
Roads have closed, buildings are water-logged, and people are not just losing their homes, but memories and years of hard work. It’s only set to get worse as the horrific weather conditions continue – with the Met Office warning there’s still three days of rainfall contributing to the already worrying devastation left to come.
Forecaster John Griffiths said between 5mm to 10mm could fall on the River Severn’s source, the Welsh hills, throughout Wednesday through to Friday.
But the devastation doesn’t end once the river returns to its usual level – hard-working communities will be continuing to pick up the pieces for years to come.
Small rural locations such as Highley, Coalport, Chelmarsh, Eardington, Stourport and more aren’t always the top of the list when it comes to council rebuilding, and even then that only covers general rebuilding (roads, community-used buildings) – those who have had their homes affected are unlikely to see any aid in rebuilding their lives.
An independent charity, The Community Foundation, has started a relief fundraiser to help those directly affected with the floods, with all proceeds to be sent to those who will have to start their lives from scratch following the devastation.
Steve Adams, chief executive the Shropshire charity said: “It was launched on Wednesday night at about 9.30pm after we took a call from someone who wanted to pledge £5,000 but didn’t know how to get it to the people who really need it.
“There are a lot of generous people who want to give something so we will coordinate it and work with the local authorities and Environment Agency to ensure it gets to the right people. Every penny donated will go to the victims as we don’t take any admin fees or anything like that.”
“We are joined up to the National Emergency Trust so when there is something that affects the country as a whole, say for instance a terrorist attack, Community Foundations around the country will launch a public appeal and manage it in their areas.
“The flooding has not triggered a national emergency as it’s quite localised but we decided to run a local appeal to help the people in Shropshire who need it. I just can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything to flooding. It has caused a huge amount of stress and worry for so many people.
“Lots of people are having to start from scratch and although there is some Government funding people can apply for, we want to get money to them as soon as possible so they can start recovering.”
If you want to donate to either the Shropshire and Staffordshire branch of the Community Foundation, call 01785 339540 or visit justgiving.com/campaign/shropshirefloods.
Rising water levels from the River Severn have breached flood defences.— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 26, 2020
Water started to pour over the top of the temporary barriers in Bewdley, and homes are being evacuated over fears that the river will not reach its peak until tonight.
Read more: https://t.co/NMrd0j2kXo pic.twitter.com/kL1fH3tTnA
[Featured Image Credit: Janet Smith Bridgnorth]