Families torn apart, suicidal and in caravans a year on from flood
Written by Rother Radio News on 01/12/2020
Angry flood victims are still living in caravans over a year on from a devastating deluge that destroyed hundreds of homes in Doncaster.
Lengthy battles with insurance companies and delays in repairs due to the coronavirus pandemic means some people still aren’t back in their homes.
The huge floods back in November 2019 caused rivers to swell to bursting point and caused devastating floods in both Fishlake and Bentley with many homes still uninhabitable.
And one desperate victim was even driven to a suicide attempt after a year-long insurance battle to get her home back how it was.
Lorna Ulyett, 40, says the stress of the wranglings got too much for her partner Claire, 41, and she attempted to take her own life.
Thankfully she survived but Lorna says the ongoing battle has “killed the family life” the couple had with their two teenage daughters.
Claire and the couple’s sixteen-year-old daughter are living upstairs in their mid-terraced house in Bentley, which is still not fully repaired.
But Lorna is living in a caravan as she has severe asthma and an auto-immune system disease that means she cannot move back into the house until it is complete.
And the couple have faced a battle with their insurers who offered £7,000 to fix the house house, with repair cost now more than £40,000.
Lorna said: “It has killed us. It has absolutely destroyed the family life that we had.
“It is so bad that our 19-year-old daughter has gone to live with a friend because she couldn’t face coming home from work to the house.
“Claire is classed as a vulnerable adult and the stress of everything has almost killed her.
“She tried to take her own life two weeks ago, the stress had gotten so much.”
The couple were forced out of their house when the River Don burst its banks on November 7 last year.
Despite being promised they would be able to return to their house within six months, the rest of the family only went back into the house to shield Lorna from Covid-19.
Lorna added: “They shouldn’t be in the house, but if I get Covid I will die, so they took the decision to stay upstairs in the house to shield me.
“We’re not living, we’re just existing. Claire exists in one bedroom and our youngest daughter exists in another.
“The only time I go into the house is for a bath. I can’t stay in the house because the damp is bad for my lungs.
“But the caravan is just a metal box, so it is freezing in the winter and too hot in the summer.
“I have to sleep in a bobble hat and gloves as it’s so cold.”
The entire downstairs of their house was ravaged by the flood and the couple lost sentimental items such as pictures of dead relatives.
Lorna claims due to arguments with the insurance company and the Covid-19 pandemic, repair work that should have been completed by February was delayed.
She added: “It was only after Claire had her wobble that the insurance company authorised work.
“The house should have been dried out in six weeks, but the drying company that came out gave us a certificate when it wasn’t completely dry.
“The only cooking facilities we have are in the caravan and it is such a pain trying to cook for all three of us. Simple things like fried eggs are hard work.
“We haven’t sat and ate as a family for more than a year.”
The family spent a miserable Christmas Day in the caravan last year, with an eight inch Christmas Tree, but Lorna is hopeful she will be able to cook a dinner this year.
She said a local building firm authorised to carry out repairs are “working around the clock” to get the kitchen sorted for December 25.
She said: “That’s all we want, we want to be home and together by Christmas.
“People round here aren’t asking for more than they had before. We just want what we’re entitled to from the insurance company.
“They need to change their policies and procedures.
“We shouldn’t have to feel like we’re going to an insurance company with a begging bowl asking for what we should have had.
“And it shouldn’t take Claire to try to take her own life before they get into gear and authorise work.”
Just upstream from Bentley in Fishlake, John Duckitt’s bungalow was the first to be flooded.
The flood banks at the back of his house, which he had built in 1963 and had lived in ever since, burst at around 6.45pm and he was flooded out within 20 minutes.
Widower John, who lost wife of 30 years Linda in 2016, was forced to flee the house he shares with his daughter Emma, her boyfriend Thomas and their three children.
John, 79, estimates the flood caused more than £100,000 worth of damage when contents and building damage is added up.
He said: “It was like a river running in my drive. The flood banks at the back of me over ran and it came down my drive.
“It started coming into my house at around 6.45pm and it was as if someone had left a hosepipe on at my back gates.
“Within 20 minutes, it was up to your knees in the house.”
The family fled to safety and have been living in two static caravans on John’s drive ever since – with Emma, Thomas and the kids in their own separate motor home.
The family spent last Christmas in the caravans and will spend this yuletide in their too, but John says they are making the best of the situation.
His insurance company finally paid out for his repair works three weeks ago and he is now considering what to do with the family home that he raised his two children in.
John, a retired peat worker, added: “I don’t want to rush the house, I’ve essentially got two options – I can get it repaired and raised about a metre or I can demolish it and start again.
“The kids are happy in their caravan, it’s still a big adventure to them.
“They still talk about the day the flood ruined the house.
“They were on the settee at the time and the furniture started floating about the house they didn’t know what was happening.
“But they’re happy and that’s the main thing.
“I’ve got my feet up and the tv on, what more can an old man want?”