Clean-up operation under way in Newton Stewart

A vehicle is driven through flood water in Newton Stewart yesterday. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA
A vehicle is driven through flood water in Newton Stewart yesterday. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA
  • Water level recedes
  • Residents and business return to properties
  • Phone lines still down
  • First Minister visits Newton Stewart
  • Retaining wall on Riverside Road has collapsed

The clean-up operation in Newton Stewart is well under way today after the worst flood in the town in living memory.

The water level in the centre of town has receded, allowing residents and businesses to return to their properties.

Many homes and businesses remain without power today. At the peak of the flooding yesterday, 217 properties on Victoria Street and King Street lost power.

There is still no landline phone connection in the region after the BT exchange in Newton Stewart town centre was knocked out by the flood water, but some mobile phone coverage has returned.

Although the water level has dropped significantly, heavy rain continued to pour today as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited shops and businesses devastated by the floods.

Ms Sturgeon said some people faced a “long recovery road” ahead of them.

The scale of the damage has become clear today.

A 30-foot section of the retaining wall on Riverside Road collapsed under the weight of the water after the River Cree burst its banks. Witnesses said the water on Riverside Road was more five to six feet deep at its height yesterday.

In Victoria Street, business owners were sweeping out the remains of the water from their shops today.

Workers at a home decor store were throwing damaged wallpaper and blinds into a skip.

Another skip was piled with white goods such as cookers that did not survive the flooding.

Sandbags remained outside shops as fire and rescue service crews pumped away water and helped residents with the clear-up.

Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray praised local communities in the region along with members of the Major Emergency Team for their response to the floods.

Ms Murray said: “Once again severe weather has hit our region but once again we have had a prompt response of action from members of the Major Emergency Team in Dumfries & Galloway. I know many local residents were reassured by their presence, and I can only commend them for their efforts.

“The flooding has been severe and sadly many local business properties and homes have been left devastated as a result. It has impacted on communities across our region.”

Councillor Colin Smyth, who chair’s the council’s economy, environment and infrastructure committee, added: “Communities across our region from Dumfries to Dalbeattie and Newton Stewart have been badly hit as result of Storm Frank. However, members of the Major Emergency Team did a fantastic job, from handing out sand bags and flood barriers from a number of flood pods and trailers we had in the main towns affected, to putting in place road closures to keep people safe and ensuring that our most vulnerable residents were looked after and received the care they needed, including evacuating hundreds of people from their homes and ensuring there were rest centres available for them.

“This was a massive operation in appalling conditions that really did stretch all agencies.

“We also have nearly 60 community resilience plans in place in many towns and villages across the region and because of this we were able to communicate with local communities so they could prepare as best they could.

“There is no doubt that local communities rose to the challenge they faced - helping neighbours and looking after each other which shows the strong community spirit we have here in Dumfries and Galloway.

“Hopefully we have now seen the worst of the flooding, and can begin repairing the damage caused as we move into the recovery stage.

“In the long term we need to see some serious asks being made of the Scottish Government in terms of funding proper flood protection schemes across the region to rethinking their planned reduction in council budgets which would have meant far fewer people on the ground supporting communities.”