Flood-ravaged Fife residents 'feel abandoned' by authorities

Residents of Cardenden say they feel abandoned due to a lack of co-ordinated action to clear-up thousands of pounds worth of flood damage to homes in the area.
The flood water was still high on Wednesday afternoon.The flood water was still high on Wednesday afternoon.
The flood water was still high on Wednesday afternoon.

While much of the Kingdom has returned to normal after Tuesday night’s torrential rain storm, Cardenden Road has around 15 properties which are each facing damage worth thousands of pounds.

Fife Council has come under fire for a lack of co-ordination in helping those who have found their property under water.

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Residents have been working to clear the debris from the streets with the help of local construction workers, but drains have been blocked by gravel and the Den Burn remains swollen to dangerous levels.

The drains are blocked by debris.The drains are blocked by debris.
The drains are blocked by debris.

The waterway would normally be just centimetres deep, but three days after the rain stopped it sits at around two metres high, with rubbish and debris clogging it up.

Jill Polanski woke at just before 2am on Wednesday morning to find her home under water.

She has been left with the prospect of paying thousands to repair the damage as her insurer will not cover it.

She said: “I woke up at 1.45am and when I came down I didn’t have a ground floor, just water.

The burn blocked the underpass at the bridge.The burn blocked the underpass at the bridge.
The burn blocked the underpass at the bridge.

"We’ve lost all of our white goods, we’ve lost our cars, my motorbike. The cars have been written off already.

“Insurance is not going to pay out. They won’t cover it because the burn is within a metre of our boundary. I’ve been here ten years, it’s never come in the house.

“It’s come into the garden before, but as long as we, the residents, go down and clear the bridge it’s never come in the house.

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"It receded at about 4am. But we had to clear the bridge at 7am on Wednesday when the flood was coming back for a second time.

"We’ve just had no support at all.

"My garden, which I’ve spent a lot of time and money on throughout lockdown, is destroyed.

"We’re the first house by the bridge. It was two foot of water in my livingroom."

Jill said that the first council contact she had was on Friday afternoon, and was told that sandbags would be delivered in the evening.

"They’re bringing us sandbags two days after we were flooded twice,” she said. "I pumped water out of my house for 12 hours on Wednesday.

"I had to call the police and tell them that the gas main that runs underneath the bridge at Den Burn was getting battered by logs.”

She said resident feel abandoned by the authorities, with no action taken until almost three days later.

"I just feel forgotten about. My employers have been amazing, organising dehumidifiers and vacuums.

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"I tried to ring Fife Council’s emergency lines, but unfortunately due to covid19 they’re closed.

"I don’t know what happens next. We’re just going to have to take each day as it comes.

"We need some support. We need them to come and clean out the drains so that when the rain comes next week it’s got somewhere to go other than in my house, and do something with the burn.”

George Zielinski says that much of the clear-up has been done by residents, with very little visible council presence.

He said: "We’re in clean-up right now, the waters have receded, but the burn that broke its banks is still at capacity and is dangerously high.

"All the drains are blocked with grit and rubble. If we get any further rain it could happen again.

"We’re all trying to clean-up but at the same time worrying about safeguarding measures to prevent this from happening again. Fife Council have been invisible.

"We’re all doing what we can here. We just want some kind of co-ordinated response from the council to help us with the clear-up but also to prevent further flooding.”

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George said that many residents are facing huge repair bills.

"It looks like a tsumani has hit, it’s carried all sorts of things hundreds of yards down the road. There’s cement mixers in back gardens and things like that.

"Three foot of heavy rapid water has torn through the entire street’s houses. Each property is probably in the region of £30,000 to £40,000 worth of damage.

"A lot of people are now finding that either they’re not insured as they thought they were, or their policy is not going to pay out due to the proximity of water – we’re talking about a wee burn that is typically centimetres deep.

"The bridge that runs through the main street has clogged up, and the burn has burst its banks. It's unbelievable that damage this has done and I’ve had no response from the council.”

George said that an initial call to the council brought just six sand bags to share between 15 properties.

“I called an emergency to the roads department on Wednesday morning to make them aware. I told them we need help to divert this water, we need bags for 15 properties on this street that have nearly a metre of water up against their houses – the response was to bring six sand bags between 15 houses.

"We feel abandoned. We’re suffering the effects of the aftermath of this, but also the stress that we’re subjected to. It’s crazy.

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“The place where the blockage was at the bridge. Fife Council didn’t touch it. It was Raeburn Construction who are building houses along the road – they brought their diggers in to clear the debris from the tunnel. If they hadn’t done that the water wouldn’t even have receded. And all the debris is still there on a public footpath.

"There’s no barricades up at this full burn. The drains are blocked and useless.

"We’re residents here trying to muddle through this ourselves and Fife Council is nowhere to be seen. We just need someone to come out and help with the clean-up and put safeguarding measure in place just to give us peace of mind that it won’t burst its banks again in the event of more rain because there is a high risk of that happening.

“All these people whose insurance isn’t going to pay out. This water is contaminated with sewage and people are still living in their houses. It’s disgusting.

"It shouldn’t be up to residents to run around and make this happen.

"It feels like people aren’t really aware of the extent of what happened here.”

Cardenden’s MP Peter Grant said Fife Council should review their response in order to learn lessons for the future.

He said: “My office is following up the concerns of constituents who have contacted us directly.

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"I personally don't remember ever seeing such heavy rain falling for such a long time over such a widespread area, and this has obviously placed enormous pressure on those across Fife who responded during the emergency and those who have been involved since.

"Responsibility for co-ordinating the response lies primarily with Fife Council and I know that my colleague Councillor Rosemary Liewald has been active in helping residents who need the Council's support.

"Once the immediate crisis has passed I would expect the council to review their response, including the concerns raised by residents, to see what lessons need to be learned.”

Sarah Roxburgh, Fife Council’s Community Manager for the Cowdenbeath area, said: “I believe that local company, Purvis, is supplying skips to the private houses to help with the clean-up and we’ll be supplying around 150 extra sandbags. We’ve also arranged for members of our Transportation Service to be on site tonight at 6pm. The sandbags will be used to shore up the hole in the wall between the residents’ properties and the Den Burn until a more permanent repair can be carried out.

“If residents are in financial hardship as a result of the severe weather there are a few options available to them including:

"Applying to the Crisis Grant Fund, by calling 0300 555 0265 between 9.00 and 2.30 Monday – Friday or online at www.fife.gov.uk/welfarefund.

"We’re currently turning around these applications within 2 working days.

“Applying for a Community Care Grant. This is available to those whose household items, such as beds, sofas, flooring, white goods etc. have been damaged. Again you can apply online at www.fife.gov.uk/welfarefund.

“Eligibility criteria does apply.

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“Alternatively, residents impacted may want to contact the Scottish Flood Forum at www.scottishfloodforum.org This charity offers support and advice to residents following a flood - dealing with water damaged properties and insurance companies. They may also be able to point residents to where they could get some funding.”