Lynne Bratley thought she knew what to expect when she woke up one morning and found half an inch of water in her house. Having been flooded three times before, she knew the water would not go higher than a few inches. Within two hours, though, the murky brown water was several feet deep and rising.
Lynne, a 54-year-old cleaner from Winestead, east Yorkshire, remembered: “All our stuff was floating out of the windows. We had to push the cars onto higher ground on the field to save them. We were trying to rescue everything and suddenly a wave came along and my son’s girlfriend disappeared into the water.
“We grabbed her by the overalls and pulled her out. We laughed at the time, then we cried.”
Lynne and her family lost everything – pots and pans, furniture, even food. They did not have a meal for nearly two days as everything in their cupboards and fridge was destroyed and roads were cut off.
She said: “At the time we just knuckled down and tried to save what we could. After a week or two we got on with things and then it hit us what we’d lost. We’re uninsured. We tried to live upstairs for awhile but it was too cold and wet so we had to find a caravan.”
Life in a caravan
The caravan was bitterly cold with no hot water, and very expensive to heat. What's more, their beds went mouldy from the condensation in the cramped quarters.
Life seemed to go from bad to worse. Lynne lives with her daughter Sarah (23), who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, and husband John, a full-time carer for Sarah.
After the floods, Lynne was in a state of shock and couldn’t work for six weeks. Her employer called to say she would not receive her next paycheque and also that she owed the company money for taking time off. She recalled: “One month we had £180 to live on.”
Real flood aid
Then Lynne heard about a local charity, Real Aid, which was giving flood victims money to pay for increases in their bills, particularly because of running dehumidifiers and using gas in caravans.
She said: “I got in touch with Real Aid. They told me the Red Cross had kindly given them money to help with fuel costs. Without that help I don’t know what I’d have done. It costs more to live in the caravan than in the house because we’re using gas and coal.”
Lynne and her family received three payments from Real Aid and the Red Cross, totalling £1,200, which was used to replace essential items, such as food, clothes, a washer and drier. She said: “If we hadn’t had the money, I don’t know where we’d be now.”
Lynne knows exactly what she’d like to say to people who donated to the Red Cross UK Floods Appeal: “Without them I really don’t know what we would’ve done. I’m just so grateful. When we do get straight I’ll be giving money back to help others. We’ve had no help other than from Real Aid and the Red Cross.”
Read more stories of people helped through the National Floods Appeal
Find out how to prepare for floods and other disasters