Storm Desmond: How kindness is keeping Cumbria afloat

Man with drinks in flood water Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption A man carries a tray of hot drinks to those trapped in their flooded homes

Carlisle United made headlines after volunteering to help those hit by the devastating floods in Cumbria. But they are not the only ones - complete strangers from all over the region are joining forces to lend a helping hand.

Thousands of homes and business were flooded on Saturday when Storm Desmond battered Cumbria, bringing with it a month's worth of rain and a torrent of destruction.

The true scale of its aftermath is still to be fully realised as emergency services and soldiers from all over England continue to bring aid to those who have once again felt the wrath of Mother Nature.

But in the worst-hit communities of Carlisle and Cockermouth, work has started closer to home - in places where residents are no stranger to "unprecedented" floods.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Residents carry what is left of their belongings from their flooded homes

Kerryanne Graham, from Holmrook, set up a Facebook group on Saturday designed to bring together people who wanted to help.

The page has already attracted 11,000 followers from as far afield as London, Wales and Belfast, and the 27-year-old has had to draft in a team of 12 to help cope with the number of donations and volunteers.

"It's been quite overwhelming," she said. "The original idea was just to have a single page where people could ask for help or offer help and it just spiralled.

"I've got hundreds of messages I haven't event read yet. Everyone has been fantastic."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Residents of Cockermouth console each other as flood waters begin to recede revealing the damage

Barmaid Miss Graham said the team worked through the night organising emergency accommodation and collection points, as well as working with firms like haulage company Eddie Stobart, which has offered free storage space in Carlisle to house the mountains of donations pouring in.

"We've had offers of everything from building supplies to counselling, but people need to sit tight," she said.

"Carlisle is the worst hit for traffic and people are turning up at help centre with [donations] and although they're trying to help it's making things worse as it's gridlocked.

"We could do with people contacting their councils with offers of help - they're working with us and will point people in the right direction."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ruined furniture is being piled up outside damaged homes

The group has been swamped with offers of everything from nappies, kitchen utensils and generators to crates of water, toiletries, free furniture and a bed for the night.

"Amazing who you meet in these hard times," wrote member Michelle Smith on the Facebook page. "Tonight I've given my bed up for two old age pensioners and even though they've lost basically everything they've had me giggling all night long.

"God bless community spirit, I am proud to be Cumbrian."

Another member Alyson Rumney, whose mother died only a week ago, wanted to help so badly despite what had happened she donated her clothes.

"My mum was a nurse and she was so caring and compassionate, she would have done the same herself," she said.

At the scene, Fiona Trott, BBC reporter

Image copyright Reuters

"I just want to help."

That is what 32-year-old Aaron Turnbull told me as he threw an armful of dripping wet carpet outside a front door.

People here have started talking about the 'Cumbrian spirit' and Aaron sums it up. Twenty-four hours earlier, he was in a kayak paddling down the same street, helping desperate residents get to dry land.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Members of the Armed Forces have been helping to recue those trapped in their homes

Unknown volunteers like him are working around the clock here on Warwick Road.

"It's what we Cumbrians do," said one local resident who had invited me in for a cup of coffee.

Sadly, they've become used to flooding here in Cumbria. That doesn't mean that experience has made this 'unprecedented' event easier.

What has made it bearable though, is the kindness of professional volunteers and volunteers like Aaron.

Catherine Clarke, who runs Cathy's Cupcakes in Broughton, was invited to join the group and the firm is just one of the local eateries to respond by delivering food and drink in Cockermouth.

"On Saturday, I went to the mountain rescue centre with 50 sausage sandwiches and 50 bacon sandwiches as well as 60 litres of homemade soup," she said.

"But I'm not the only one, people have been out all night. Everyone's been trying to do what they can and all the little companies have been providing help to each other.

"I know how hard it was when the floods hit in 2009 and I just wanted to do something. It's been emotional, it's heartbreaking to see everything gone again."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cockermouth High Street suffered in the storm

Ali's Takeaway in Shaddongate, Carlisle, posted on Facebook that even though the restaurant is completely underwater, staff were doing their bit to help the rescue teams.

"Hot curry and rice and a brew for the boys doing a terrific job," they wrote on their wall.

Meanwhile, supermarkets have been helping to deliver food all over the region, including Morrisons which sent a truck full of supplies to rescue centres in Penrith, Carlisle and Kendal.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption People watch as Cockermouth all but disappears underwater

Others have been spreading a little cheer by foot - Scott Murray donned his superhero suit and dished out chocolate and directions to the nearest rescue centre in Carlisle.

"Took a bag of food down to the refuge centre at Holy Trinity on Wigton Road this afternoon in my Batman suit to help out and cheer up any kids," he wrote on Facebook.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption People are doing their best to support each other in the wake of the floods

Alison McKerlie is opening up her dance school, Studio A, in Carlisle to local businesses and has also offered free classes to children to keep them occupied.

"I've heard there are a lot of bored kids in rescue centres and we are more than happy to open up and run some free classes to get the kids smiling again," she said.

"I know dance lessons probably don't seem like a high priority at the moment, but kids are still kids and they need stimulation, especially as a lot of schools are closed.

"I've also put an offer out to any local businesses affected, if they need some space to work, we have space and wi-fi."

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