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How the UK floods crisis unfolded

Two Red Cross volunteers assist a woman at a flood shelter in Oxford

During the summer of 2007, more than a month of torrential rain led to severe flooding across the UK, bringing misery to hundreds of thousands of people by destroying homes and some livelihoods, cutting off access to drinking water, and causing major disruption to travel routes.

The Red Cross began working in all affected areas as soon as the flooding began. More than a hundred of our volunteers ran rest centres, supported the emergency services, and provided emergency goods and bedding to those evacuated from their homes.

We also launched the National Floods Appeal, which raised £4.8 million. Money raised from our appeal helped communities in hardship. We worked closely with local, regional and national governments to ensure the money went to those who needed it most.

How we helped

As a leading voluntary organisation for emergency response, the Red Cross has thousands of specially trained volunteers who provide a range of services to people in emergencies, including practical and emotional support and first aid services. The Red Cross also has well-equipped fire and emergency support service (FESS) vehicles which play a vital role in supporting local fire and ambulance services.

Before the flooding began, we launched a co-ordinated response to help vulnerable people across areas threatened by flooding in the UK.

Our response included:


Our volunteers helped evacuate patients from Tewkesbury Hospital after torrential rains led to flooding in the area. We also helped evacuate care home residents in Oxfordshire. In Tamworth, Staffordshire, teams of volunteers worked with fire crews to evacuate residents by boat, made sure that people who didn’t want to be evacuated had enough food and medication, and secured people’s properties overnight.

Staffing rest centres

We supported emergency rest centres in Abingdon, west Berkshire, Buckingham, Henley-on-Arden, Helmdom, Oxford (at the Kassam Football Stadium), Stratford-upon-Avon, Doncaster, Wakefield, Sheffield, and Wellsborne. Our volunteers provided clothing, refreshments, emotional support, therapeutic massage, and practical advice on a range of topics including filing insurance claims.  

Support to the statutory services

Red Cross ambulances supported the local ambulance service in Berkshire, Birmingham, Gloucestershire, Sussex and Warwickshire. We also helped out at non-emergency situations in Lincolnshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Barry in south Wales.

Distribution of emergency provisions

From our warehouse in Warmley near Bristol, we provided food and bottled water supplied by Tesco and other local supermarkets. In Gloucestershire, where up to 350,000 people lost their water supply, Red Cross volunteers distributed tonnes of water and food parcels using the Red Cross’ all-terrain UNIMOG vehicle, 4x4s and ambulances.

Support from across the organisation

A ten-person flood rescue team from northern Scotland brought their expertise and specialist equipment to Gloucestershire, bringing much-needed water and food to people stranded by the flood water. The group is the British Red Cross' first flood rescue team. More than 30 volunteers from Argyll, Newcastle, Lincolnshire, and Leicestershire went to Gloucester, bringing a dozen Red Cross 4x4s and ambulances with them.


We provided medical equipment and bedding in Doncaster (30 beds for elderly people), Birmingham (beds, blankets and pillows), Tewkesbury (duvets and sleeping bags), Warwickshire (beds, blankets and pillows) and Wellsbourne (wheelchairs). Volunteers packed food parcels, donated by Tesco, which were distributed to the most vulnerable. Each parcel containd enough food for one person for one week and included long-life milk and bread, tinned meat, fish and potatoes, cereal bars, torch and batteries, toilet paper and hand sanitising gel among other items.


In Tamworth and Elford, volunteers set up residents’ meetings where community members were given the latest news and an opportunity to ask questions. Thanks to volunteers in Lincolnshire, residents received flood information packs offering advice from a range of agencies on what to do before, during, and after a flood.

How our partners helped

In 2007 we were Tesco's Charity of the Year. Tesco donated water, snacks, clothing and hygiene products. In addition, fundraising collections took place around the country in Sainsbury's and ASDA, as well as in London Underground.

The Red Cross also received financial donations from Vodafone Group Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline and Halifax.

The Irish Red Cross donated €25,000 to the National Floods Appeal. Irish Red Cross chairman David Andrews said: “Our hearts go out to the thousands of people who have suffered so much in the past two months. We feel it is important that we support our colleagues in the British Red Cross who are working hard to restore essential services, including accommodation, food and water as well as sanitary services to those areas most affected.”

Last updated 2 August 2007

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