Family ‘lucky to be alive’ after flash flood ordeal

PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 June 2012

Brian, Maryand Emma Pugh.

Brian, Maryand Emma Pugh.

Archant

A WESTON father claims his family is lucky to be alive after firefighters ‘abandoned’ them during a flash flood at a caravan site.

Brian Pugh, aged 48, of Forest Drive, was celebrating his birthday on holiday with his 12-year-old daughter Emma and his 51-year-old wife Mary when disaster struck.

Emma, who uses crutches because of a long-term ligament injury to her foot, raised the alarm at 5.30am on Saturday.

The caravan park they were staying at was rapidly filling with water after a nearby river burst its banks because of the stormy weather. Water had swamped the park’s main road, blocking the exit.

The fire brigade was soon at the park but nobody told the Pughs to leave.

Mr Pugh, who works as a CCTV camera operator for North Somerset Council, stayed with his wife and daughter in their caravan and waited for word from the fire crews on what to do next.

He added: “We didn’t know at the time that there was a wall close to our caravan that was eight to 10 feet tall. On the other side of the wall to us the water was inches from the top.

“If that wall had given way it would have swept our caravan away with us inside and that would have been it.

“I wasn’t so worried for me, you worry about your child more than anything.”

The family stayed put and anxiously watched the water levels rise.

Mr Pugh said: “It must have been several feet high, and the strong currents would have swept your legs away.”

They watched the news and later that morning they saw a report saying that everyone on the site in Capel Bangor, mid-Wales, had been evacuated.

Mrs Pugh, who suffers from arthritis, said: “Until we saw it on the news we weren’t that concerned.

“But when they said there was nobody left on the park, that’s when it dawned on us – the fire brigade had forgotten about us. We were very worried.”

Worle Community School pupil Emma said: “I was very frightened because I’ve learned about floods in school and I know that even two feet of water can kill.

“All morning I was saying ‘they have left us behind’.”

Emma waved out of the window to try to get help, and a woman further up the site saw them and flagged down a fire engine which was going to another job.

When the firefighters reached the Pughs they were shocked to find the family had been left behind.

The rescuers had to borrow a Land Rover from a farmer because the fire service had been left so stretched by the flash floods in the area.

Mr Pugh added: “One of the firefighters simply said, ‘everybody out, now’.

“When we found out we were the only people left, we knew we had to go.

“You don’t realise how quickly these things happen until they happen to you.

“I believe the fire service put us in danger. You put your faith in these people to take charge and you have to trust the fire brigade will do what is best, not leave you behind.”

The Pughs were taken to a dry point and got on board a cattle truck packed with rescued people which took them to a nearby village hall – leaving their car and most of their possessions behind.

Emma added: “It’s something I don’t ever want to go through again. I was very frightened.”

Mr Pugh added: “One man who had lived in the village for 65 years told me he had never seen anything like it. It certainly wasn’t my favourite birthday.”

A spokesman for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue said: “The main concern of all the emergency services during this incident was obviously to prevent any injury or loss of life to anyone in a flooded area.

“There was a huge demand on crews throughout the weekend and over 150 people were rescued and moved to safety.

“A loudhailer was used to advise people in the area to move to higher ground, and in liaison with the owner of the caravan park, our crews utilised a tractor and trailer to transport people to safety”.

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