Tag Archive: floods

Back and better than ever: Sheesh Mahal reopens after 14-months following devastating floods

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A popular Leeds restaurant has finally reopened, fourteen long months after being destroyed by flooding.

The Sheesh Mahal in Kirkstall Road restaurant was open and full of customers when the water started creeping in at 5:30pm on Boxing Day 2015. Owner Azram Chaudhry’s recollection of the moment it started is still so fresh in his mind, he can still remember exactly what he was serving to the customers that were in.

‘”The staff phoned me from the basement and said I’d better come downstairs because water was pouring in,” Azram recalled.

Despite the best efforts of staff to try and halt the water seeping in from outside with sandbags, it was the water coming in through the basement which quickly caused the place to flood. Customers were asked to leave for their safety and soon ten-foot deep water filled the basement, causing extensive damage and destroying all stock.

With nothing more he could do, when Azram finally left his restaurant he was surprised by what he saw outside.

“It was 7:30 pm when I left the restaurant and people were canoeing along the road,” he said in disbelief.

But nowow, a long fourteen-months later, Azram’s Sheesh Mahal is back, and it couldn’t be more apparent how much the place was missed.

Walking in through the doors, the window ledge is lined with greetings cards and flowers for well-wishers and delighted customers. If that weren’t proof enough, since reopening on 1st March, customers are walking through the door and embracing Azram with sheer joy at his return.

He explained that during their fourteen-month absence, customers were in constant social media contact with him, enquiring about when he would be finally turning his closed sign around. Sheesh Mahal has so very clearly been missed.

With their beautiful golden walls, stunning bar and tables abuzz with happy dinners, it’s as though the Sheesh Mahal hadn’t been closed a day. Don’t be fooled though, Azram explains that it hasn’t been a quick or easy process.

Working in the cold, with no electricity or gas, no matter what the weather, Azram has been there every day, working tirelessly to oversee the refurbishment. In the initial months after the flood, efforts were focused on the clean-up, with Azram and helpers shifting debris in the harsh winter weather.

“The volunteers were angels,” he said.

“They helped to clear everything, filling skip after skip. There was so much wasted stock.”

Finally, after lots of clean-up and paperwork, the refurbishments started in April 2016. Unfortunately, due to problems with insurance cover, the flood was damaging financially as well as physically, with Azram having to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds of his own money into bringing the business back to life.

“Breaking is easy, mending is difficult,” Azram mused at the end of a painful and trying fourteen-month journey.

“I’ve missed my customers. After fourteen months I am so pleased that my loyal diners are so happy to see us reopen.”

Glancing around at the full tables and seeing the elated looking faces of people swarming in through the doors, it’s easy to understand why it’s been non-stop since their reopening.

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Flood support is ‘not enough’

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DEVASTATING: Storms last December inflicted misery on parts of the region, where flood defences did not work and families had to evict their homes and businesses

DEVASTATING: Storms last December inflicted misery on parts of the region, where flood defences did not work and families had to evict their homes and businesses

Empty promises continue to disappoint Leeds traders

With many businesses in Kirkstall still shut after the devastating floods of Storm Eva on Kirkstall road in December 2015, those who have suffered first-hand remain unhappy with government proposals to halve additional funding for the next phase of the flood defence scheme.

Azram Chaudhry, from Sheesh Mahal on Kirkstall Road, was forced to shut his restaurant for over a year after the Boxing Day floods.

He is still waiting to turn his ‘closed’ sign around on his beloved restaurant’s door.

He said: “I was going to open up again in June, then that turned to July. Now it’s September and we don’t even know now if we will be open by Christmas.”

SECRETARY OF STATE: Andrea Leadsom said she was ‘absolutely committed’ to reducing the risk of flooding by investing £2.5 billion up to 2021

SECRETARY OF STATE: Andrea Leadsom said she was ‘absolutely committed’ to reducing the risk of flooding by investing £2.5 billion up to 2021

Describing the ordeal as a nightmare, Azram’s restaurant was just one of many premises to be submerged in filthy water last year.

Upon hearing the latest plans to cut proposed flood defence scheme funding, the experienced restaurateur added:  “It’s the politics. What does it mean?

“A string of empty promises without any action taking place.

“If we get flooded again, businesses will go bankrupt and then those people will have to go on the dole.

“It will take more than a few million pounds to sort that out. Life since the floods has been devastating. I don’t know who to blame anymore.”

MORE MUST BE DONE: Councillor Judith Blake said there was no reassurance that Leeds will get the flood defences it needs

MORE MUST BE DONE: Councillor Judith Blake said there was no reassurance that Leeds will get the flood defences it needs

The Environment Agency says it is progressing with work on a £17 million upgrade to ensure Yorkshire will be better protected from floods this winter, alongside the £33 million River Aire flood alleviation scheme.

Leeds has also been allocated an additional £35 million up to 2021 towards the cost of another project to further protect the city.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake, said more still has to be done.

“The comments this week from the Secretary of State [Andrea Leadsom] were a little disappointing as they offered no new reassurance or commitment to our residents and businesses that the city will get the comprehensive flood defences it urgently needs,” she said.

“The reference to additional funding for the next phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is approximately half of what it is expected to cost, and the timescale of up to 2021 is too long and will leave parts of the city vulnerable to flooding for many years.”

Last week, Ms Leadsom and Emma Howard Boyd, from the Environment Agency, visited Leeds to see the development of the new flood defence scheme in the city, which will see the introduction of moveable weirs in the UK for the first time.

The weirs can be lowered in flood conditions to reduce river levels and the threat of river flooding.

The River Aire flood alleviation scheme is intended to protect more than 200 homes and businesses once completed in May next year. It will also reduce the likelihood of flood disruption to more than 3,000 city centre apartments.

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A floody mess: Hundreds of sites in UK still at risk of another deluge

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FEROCIOUS FLOODS: Yorkshire saw the wettest December in over a century last year

FEROCIOUS FLOODS: Yorkshire saw the wettest December in over a century last year

According to a government review, as many as 530 key infrastructure sites across England are still vulnerable to flooding.

The report has revealed a total of £12.5 million to new temporary flood defences in England.

During the wettest December in over a century last year, 16,000 houses across northern England were flooded and the review was then commissioned.

Critics at the time said defences were not up to the job.

The £12.5million means the Environment Agency would have four times as many temporary flood barriers than in 2015.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the review set out ‘clear actions so we are better prepared to respond quickly in the event of future flooding and can strengthen the nation's flood defences’.

She added: “Work is already underway towards £12.5 million of new temporary defences stationed around England, better protection for our infrastructure and new flood modelling that makes better use of data and technology.”

She also said the government was investing £2.5bn by 2021 to protect families, homes and businesses from flooding.

In July, the Climate Change Committee, which provides independent advice to the Government and Parliament warned of ‘cascading infrastructure failures’ from flooding.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole, said: “This review suggests a sea change in Government understanding of floods, but its recommendations are a wash-out.

“£12.5m for temporary flood defences is a drop in the ocean when the review concludes that winter rainfall could increase by up to 30 per cent in future in parts of the UK - signalling politicians' acceptance that the climate is changing radically.”

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Boxing Day floods: 3 months on

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DELUGE: The shocking scenes from last year’s floods in Kirkstall

DELUGE: The shocking scenes from last year’s floods in Kirkstall

Govt pledges £40m fix for flood defences in Yorkshire

The Boxing Day floods have cost Leeds City Region’s economy an estimated £365m, with some businesses still closed for the foreseeable future.

The cost of damage across Yorkshire to infrastructure alone was around £50m and councils have estimated the repair bill for bridges and roads at over £43m.

Among the issues to be considered in a Leeds City Region-wide review of the lessons learned from the Boxing Day storms will be anti-flood measures in major building and transport projects.

West Yorkshire council and neighbouring authorities are launching the review to look at whether there are measures they can take together to make the area more resilient and reduce the risk of the horrendous flooding ever happening again.

The review looks at the way land management across the area could play a part in cutting flood risk.

Analysis of the floods which hit the region on Boxing Day has shown that if they had struck on a working day around 27,000 people would have been marooned in Leeds.

The emergency services were also hit as torrents of water affected their communication networks.

The Environment Agency has inspected 8,000 of its assets in the area including flood walls, culverts and trash screens since the floods and completed repairs on 100, with 300 more underway.

Individual councils are already reviewing their own plans and performance in the light of the floods but also want to look area-wide at how they can work together to prevent and respond to flood events.

Last week’s Budget included commitments to fund flood defence work in Leeds, the Calder Valley and York from money generated from an increase on the tax consumers pay when they buy insurance.

The Government has committed to £3m funding for a feasibility study on expanding flood defences along the River Aire in Leeds, as well as a £40m fix for flood defences in Yorkshire and £280m over the next six years.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Cllr Judith Blake, said: “I’m pleased the government appears to have listened to demands for a Leeds flood defence scheme.

“However there are still many unanswered questions, not least when will it be delivered?

“Leeds residents and businesses will want a firm timeframe putting in place as soon as possible, especially as the current lack of certainty is seeing companies close and leading to the loss of jobs.

“There are also questions about how the initial £150million for Leeds, York, Calder Valley, Carlisle and Cumbria will be allocated.

“This figure contrasts with the £297million previously invested in the Thames Valley area alone, and the original estimate of £180m for the previously cancelled 2011 Leeds scheme.

“We will keep the pressure on government to make sure Leeds businesses and residents get the flood defences they need as soon as possible.”

Labour’s Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said: “The thing to worry about is if they are talking about contributions from Leeds City Council and local businesses to flood defences.

“Leeds is of national significance – its protection is important for the overall economy.

“Small businesses are also struggling to get back on their feet. They shouldn’t have to pay a levy for flood defences.”

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Hydro-power plants to blame for floods

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A report released earlier this week by an environment ministry panel says badly managed hydro-power projects in northern India were partly to blame for last year’s deadly floods.

The panel findings highlight the problem facing India, one of the world's lowest per-capita energy consumers, as it rushes to expand power generation to meet rising demand.

Governments have long sought to harness the power of rivers despite the risks, in part to diversify away from polluting coal and gas plants that are increasingly costly to run.

The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand was hit by its heaviest rainfall on record in June 2013, causing lakes and rivers to burst their banks, inundating towns and villages below.

FLOOD: Heavy rainfall caused destruction across many parts of Northern India last year where thousands were killed and extensive damage was caused to property and roads

FLOOD: Heavy rainfall caused destruction across many parts of Northern India last year where thousands were killed and extensive damage was caused to property and roads

In a report commissioned by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, a panel of 11 experts said that hydroelectric plants had led to the build-up of huge volumes of sediment in rivers that was not managed properly.

The sediment raised river beds during the floods and was then flushed downstream, aggravating the severity of the flooding.

“Can it be a mere coincidence that the maximum destruction of land and property occurred in areas downstream of hydro-power projects?” the experts asked, referring to three projects in particular.

The official death toll was 900 with more than 5,700 people declared missing, making it the deadliest ever in the mountainous region. Floods or landslides also washed away or damaged 5,000 roads, 200 bridges and innumerable buildings.

The experts also rejected suggestions that the extent of the flooding was caused by deforestation or the breaching of dams brought on by landslides, as was the case in previous floods.

Himanshu Thakkar, co-ordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, a Delhi-based environmental group, welcomed the report yet believes that due to the small sample size, its results lack certain validity.

“Most of the recommendations are useful but some of them are a bit weak,” he said. “We think they should have asked for all work on the 24 proposed projects to stop immediately – they should have said this explicitly.”

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