Deluged homeowners' fury at failure of 1.7m state-of-the-art defences which they celebrated with an 'end of flooding party'
Distressed families said they were unprepared for flooding because they had been told the pumps would protect themValued possessions were washed away and villagers evacuatedA baby and a 90-year-old were rescued from their houses by boatWater rose four feet in just half an hour after electrical fault
Parts of Britain experienced worst floods in 70 years
13:42 GMT, 26 November 2012
Homeowners were today trying to repair the damage to their homes after a 1.7milllion flood defence system failed during torrential rain this weekend.
Families in Kempsey, Worcestershire, had not taken action to protect their homes because they believed they were protected by the state of the art pumps – and had even staged a party to celebrate the installation.
In fact, the devastation was worse than it had ever been in floods before the system was installed.
Villagers branded the failure of the new system 'unacceptable' and said somebody had to take responsibility for the devastation.
Evacuated: Resident Dan Corns said it was 'unacceptable' that the pumps had failed, leaving his and other homes under four feet of water
About 30 houses in the village were evacuated in the early hours of Sunday morning after they began filling up with water.
A further 60 caravans were flooded during the deluge, with up to two feet of water in some places.
The terrifying night came as parts of Britain
experienced their worst floods for 70 years, breaching more than 800 homes
and leaving 10,000 still at risk.
Resident Dan Corns said: 'More than 1m was spent on [the defences] and somebody's got to take responsibility.
'It is unacceptable the pumps failed.
within 10 minutes it was rising at a rate of knots. The water has
damaged all of my furniture – we had such little time.'
Stained: Homeowners evacuated by boat were today inspecting the damage and cleaning up
Dan Spires showed TV cameras the damage
to his home, admitting that he had not prepared for flooding because he
believed the Government-backed system would protect them.
'Because of the flood defences we didn't expect it to happen, so we hadn't moved everything upstairs, that's the bottom line,' he told BBC News. 'We weren't prepared for this. If the flood defences weren't in, we'd have moved everything because of the warnings that were all over the news.'
The defence system was completed in July, after almost 12 months of work, which included the building of a 180m (590ft) earth embankment to protect the village from the River Severn.
Sluice gates would close if the Severn flooded, while pumps were intended to remove water from Hatfield Brook to the other side of the embankment.
The Environment Agency confirmed that the pumps failed at about 5am on Sunday morning. They were paid for out of the public purse and with 5,000 raised by villagers themselves.
Wrecked: Dan Spires's possessions were ruined after his home filled with water during the deluge this weekend
Shocked: Mr Spires said he had not prepared for flooding or moved furniture upstairs because he thought the defences would protect his house
Extreme: Villagers said that despite the pumps being in place, the flooding was even worse than in 2007, when the river rose to half a metre higher
Resident Michael Gill said the water rose far quicker than in the floods of 2007.
Mr Gill said: 'The pumps failed on this occasion and made the flood risk much worse and six or seven houses have been very badly damaged.'
Toby Kempton, station commander of the fire service, said several residents who had been rescued were 'distressed and confused'.
Kempsey councillor David Harrison said the impact of the heavy rain was worse than it would have been without the water pumps.
'Disappointment': The Environment Agency has visited houses to manually pump out floodwater, but said 30,000 houses had been successfully protected across Britain
'I was woken up at 5.15am to get down there after the water rose about four feet in half an hour,' he told MailOnline.
'A mobile phone network had gone down and it was chaos.
'About 20 houses were underwater, one of the pubs and the sewage pumping station, so nothing was working.
'The people evacuated by boat included a baby of less than two days old and a 90-year-old and an 87-year-old.
Excitement: Homeowners who had put 5,000 of their own money into the Government-backed scheme were delighted when the flood defences were completed in July
'Residents went around waking other people up. There were fire trucks, fire boats, the police and West Midlands search and rescue arrived later.'
He said no one had expected the pumps to fail.
'When you go to a garage and buy a new car, you expect it to work,' he said.
'This is the system's third flood. In July they were worked manually because they weren't quite finished and the second flood was about a month ago, when they worked automatically and worked fine.
'The pumps had been working fine since
Wednesday, but one didn't kick in, and because the gate was closed,
Hatfield Brook ended up higher than the Severn.
'The Environment Agency noticed that one of the pumps wasn't working at about 3am.
'They are looking into how it happened.
Up until 2008, Kempsey homes had been flooded 23 times in 30 years, but the EA claimed the project has reduced the risk of flooded homes to a one in 100 chance in any one year.
Yet villagers say the damage is worse than the last time they were flooded, in 2007, when the river level was half a metre higher than this time.
The fire service said 60 caravans had also flooded in Kempsey.
An EA spokesman told MailOnline: 'There are two pumps, one worked and protected up to 80 homes, while the other failed because of an electrical problem.
'It meant that the village was not protected.
'We were on site straight away and had it working within two hours.
'We are investigating what happened and working with local residents. We've been pumping water out of their houses.
'We are disappointed and our hearts go out to those affected.
'Our systems protected more than 30,000 houses and are all working as they should. We have teams routinely checking them and we are shoring up systems that are rising more than expected after five days of persistent rain.'
Environment minister Richard Benyon said the Government will be spending 2.17bn 'which will see more flood schemes going ahead'.
This morning, however, he told ITV's Daybreak that he was frustrated about flood defence failures.
High hopes: One of the two water pumps failed because of an electrical fault, leaving water levels in Kempsey evbn higher than those of the River Severn
He said: 'It is slightly frustrating. I feel really sorry for the people of Kempsey, who were flooded because the pumps didn’t turn on. They must feel really let down this morning and we want to get to the bottom of what happened there.
'But I think at about 10pm last night, the figure of 26,000 homes didn’t flood in the last 48 hours because of flood defences which have been constructed over recent years, and that is a positive story.'
Meanwhile, the EA admitted that flood defences at Polperro in Cornwall were 'overtopped' by 'unprecedented' levels of floodwater.
A spokesman said the river went from being below flood alert levels to a severe flood warning in the space of two hours.
Alan Crockford, a pub landlord in the village, said there had been warnings but 'nobody knew it would get this bad'.
He said: 'I was actually in my house and I heard a roar, and just looked outside the window and that was the first bit of water that just, just came down the hill, like a river running straight down the road.
'We were given warnings from Floodline, and they just said, like, to take care; we were never given any firm warning that you had to evacuate and no-one knew to expect it this bad.'
VIDEO: Watch minister Richard Benyon talk about the floods on Daybreak…