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British Red Cross volunteers offer emotional support during Devon floods

10 July 2012

For immediate release  Tuesday 10 July, 2012
For further information  Samantha Whitwham (
Contact number  0117 301 2624 or 07525 128 297
Axe Valley residents evacuated from their flooded homes on Saturday (7 July) were offered emotional support by British Red Cross volunteers after a rest centre was set up in the local leisure centre.

A month’s worth of rain – up to 100mm – fell across East Devon within 24 hours, flooding the homes of more than 35 elderly people. Devon County Council established a rest centre at Axe Valley Leisure Centre and six Red Cross volunteers looked after residents' welfare, providing warm drinks, food and advice.

Mal Rothwell, emergency response volunteer for the Red Cross, said: “We were pleased to assist the Council by offering emotional support to those affected by this emergency. It was obviously a very traumatic time as people were concerned about their properties and possessions, but they are a very close-knit community so were very resilient and supported each other.”

The volunteers remained at the rest centre for five hours until the Council arranged alternative accommodation for those affected. Volunteers remained on standby for the rest of the weekend in case the situation worsened.

Keith Finch, emergency response coordinator at the Red Cross said: “I’d like to thank our fantastic volunteers who responded from across Devon, travelling to Axminster from Plymouth, Exeter and Barnstaple. They are all fully trained in providing psycho-social support and did an incredible job of helping residents during a very traumatic and worrying time.

“I’d also like to acknowledge Tesco in Axminster, who supplied the Red Cross with a range of essential grocery items to distribute at the rest centre.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Community, said: “The weekend’s floods have been devastating, but communities have pulled together to minimise the impact on residents wherever possible. Such intense rainfall is always going to cause problems, but the response from communities such as Axminster and Yealmpton has shown the value of having a community emergency plan in place, and the benefit of feeding into the multi-agency flood plan. Residents were able to help themselves instantly, and the local authorities and agencies then followed on with support.”

The Red Cross is advising people in flood risk areas to prepare by doing the following:

>        Prepare an emergency kit including emergency numbers, insurance policy, first aid kit, torch and water. 

>        Keep important personal documents in a sealed bag.

>        Pack essential items you will need if evacuated – medication, clothing, toiletries and items for children.

>        Turn off the mains power and water, and take mobile phones and chargers with you in the event of an evacuation.

>        Don't walk, swim or drive through floodwater – just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car.

>        Don't walk on sea defences, riverbanks, or cross river bridges if possible.

>        Avoid contact with floodwater – it may be contaminated with sewage.

>        Don’t allow children to play in or near flood water.

>        See if vulnerable neighbours need any support.

People should also check the websites of the Environment Agency, DirectGov and local news for updates on flood risks and weather warnings.

For more information on flood preparedness, go to


Notes to editors

The British Red Cross responds immediately to major emergencies both at home and overseas. From fires and floods in the UK to earthquakes and conflict around the world, we help people cope in crisis situations.

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

Follow us on Twitter: @BRC_West

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