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Salford floods – six years on

21 December, 2021

Boxing Day 2015 is a moment in time the people of Salford will never forget.

As households were embracing the Christmas festivities, Salford was experiencing the heaviest rain in its history, causing the River Irwell to burst its banks and flooding 400 homes in the Lower Broughton and Kersal areas.

Six years on from that fateful night, flood campaigner and Salix Homes tenant Keri Muldoon has been reflecting on the tragedy which saw her home on Gordon Street, Lower Broughton, devastated by flood water.

She recalls: “Thinking back now, it’s quite unbelievable what we all went through. When it happened, it felt like the end of the world.

“Christmas Day had been a bit wet, but nothing you’d really even think about. Then on Boxing Day morning I remember seeing the river and thinking ‘that looks really high’. But I didn’t know anything about flooding or river levels back then, so I would never have envisaged something like this could happen.”

Keri and her two children, who were aged five and 11 at the time, had been at her mum’s house in Higher Broughton when the floods struck.

“People had been trying to ring me all day, but my phone had died, so I had no idea that our estate had been flooded,” she said.

“I left my mum’s house at about 5pm and I saw a neighbour and he said ‘Keri – your house has been flooded’, but I just didn’t believe him.

“I had to park up on Broughton Lane and walk to my house – the water was up to my waist. It was dark and noisy and muddy. It was like being in the river and the current was fast – it was scary.

“First, I just looked through the letterbox and everything was a foot under water – we’d lost everything – all the kid’s Christmas presents, everything destroyed.

“From that moment, we never even thought about Christmas again – Christmas was over.”

The water eventually receded in the early hours of the next morning and then the mammoth clean-up operation began.

Almost 300 Salix Homes properties were flooded across the Spike Island and Riverside estates. Salix Homes officers joined an army of volunteers and other agencies to support the clean-up and recovery operation over the following days, weeks and months.

Keri added: “It was the aftermath that was the worst part, but the next day there were hundreds of people on our estate helping with the clean-up and bringing donations.

“Despite everything we went through, there have been positives to come out of what happened. It’s brought our community together and we’re more connected than we’ve ever been because we’ve all been through the same thing and we have each other’s backs.”

Since the floods, Keri has become a flooding expert and activist in her community. She’s chair of the 1,500-member Broughton Flood Group, sharing flood alerts and information with the wider community, and also sits on Salford Council’s Flood Forum.

She added: “I’m a fighter against the floods now. I work closely with the Environment Agency and Salford Council and other groups and agencies. I’ve had to learn so much about flooding and river levels to try and keep the community safe. I’m always alert to it now and I’m constantly looking at the river – it does take over your life.”

Substantial flood defences have been implemented since the events of Boxing Day 2015, including the Environment Agency’s £10million Salford Flood Improvement Scheme.

The flood scheme has seen the creation of a flood storage basin and wetlands area on the site of the old Manchester Racecourse in Kersal, which aims to protect 2,000 homes and businesses in Lower Broughton and Lower Kersal.

Salix Homes also carried out a major programme of repairs to affected properties, which also included additional flood prevention measures such as waterproof treatment to external walls.

Keri says she’s confident that the measures in place will keep the community safe.

She added: “There are people who are still worrying about it happening again, especially with reports that we’re going to have a wet winter, but the wetlands is working as it should. We have had periods of intense rain since, so it must be doing its job.”

Sue Sutton, chief executive at Salix Homes, added: “It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since the Boxing Day floods, which will go down in Salford’s history for the heartache and destruction it brought to hundreds of people in our city. I was there when the Irwell broke its banks and it was truly devastating.

“But amid all the distress and chaos, the Salford community came together in a way only Salfordians can and that will never be forgotten. It was awe-inspiring to see the community, local charities, organisations and businesses join forces to support the flood victims in their hour of need.

“We’ve worked really closely with the community since then, undertaking a huge repairs programme to the affected homes, providing support to residents and helping Keri, and other community heroes like her, continue with the amazing work they have been doing.”

Salix Homes works with insurance provider Aviva to provide low-cost contents insurance for all tenants, including those at risk of flooding. To find out more call 0800 218 2000.