Whalley and Billington clean-up operation well underway

Residents and business owners were out in force to tackle the aftermath of the Boxing Day floods in Whalley and Billington to help get the clean up operation well and truly underway.

Basing themselves at the Village Hall, a team of support co-ordinators were besieged by offers of help from many, including people who had driven hundreds of miles to lend a hand, all demonstrating that community spirit and human kindness can conquer the worst that Mother Nature can conjure up.

After an appeal went out via social media for mops, buckets and cleaning products, the support centre received countless donations and also welcomed the many who came to lend a hand in the homes which were worst affected.

Mags Twist, Secretary of the Whalley Lions Club who helped set up the support centre said: "We have around 150 volunteers currently helping and have been so pleased by the turn out, and also by the many donations of cleaning products and food. We have also been aided by some amazing organisations who have come from as far afield as London to help, including the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, who are from the Largest Mosque in Western Europe, the Baitul Futuh mosque. They have helped with things like distributing clean bottled water which has been donated, general mopping and clearing and assisting any home owners who need help generally."

Outside the village hall, on the village's main car park, we spoke to local tradesmen who had volunteered their services including the transportation of sand bags, help with making electrics safe and support with many other logistical issues.

Residents in Longworth Road, under Whalley arches and one of the worst affected areas, were assisted in clearing flood damaged goods and fittings from their homes by more local volunteers and local companies and trades people.

Residents help move a damaged car

Residents help move a damaged car

Whilst most home owners reported an overwhelming warmth from their neighbours and the wider community, some expressed concern that their plight wasn't being prioritised, one example being not being able to contact their service providers and frustrations at the lack of understanding of the situation by some local businesses.

One Longworth Road resident commented: "We stayed in a local hotel on the night of the flood as we were effectively homeless and struggling to find somewhere to stay and I was shocked to find that not only had we been charged the full rate for the room, which was £80, we were also charged over £40 for our meal. I overheard the manager say to one of his staff that there would be no rate reductions for the rooms moving forward as 'People will be desperate for somewhere to stay'. I can honestly say I was absolutely disgusted."

There was also dismay at reports of the looting of properties at the height of the floods and an injury sustained to a local man as he tried to intervene when he witnessed goods being removed from properties.

Despite these isolated incidents, the overwhelming coming together of the community will be remembered long after the flood waters have receded.

Village Hall support centre

Village Hall support centre

Affected Billington homeowner Andrew Read (37) said: "The community spirit and warmth shown by everyone has been absolutely unbelievable. I can't get over how people have rallied round to help and I will never forget their kindness."

With more rain forecast for later this week, the villagers are desperately hoping there will be no repeat of the Boxing Day events and are preparing themselves for the worst. As one said: "We are hoping we have seen the worst, but all we can do is deal with things as they happen together as a community."