Boat for village cut off by floods

Braintree and Witham Times: Properties near the village of Muchelney, Somerset, where residents have been relying on volunteers in boats bringing in supplies Properties near the village of Muchelney, Somerset, where residents have been relying on volunteers in boats bringing in supplies

A village cut off for nearly a week because of the floods is to get more help.

More than 100 residents in the village of Muchelney, in the Somerset Levels, have been trapped since last Friday as all access roads are under water.

Residents in the village, which rather aptly means Big Island in Saxon, have been reliant on volunteers in boats bringing in supplies.

Muchelney, which lies between Taunton and Yeovil, was devastated last year after suffering the worst floods in 90 years.

Now Somerset County Council has bought a boat that will be manned by a crew from Devon and Somerset Fire Service.

The flat-bottomed vessel will be able to navigate sunken cars, trees and other underwater obstacles to reach the village of Muchelney from Huish Episcopi.

The boat will be in use from Friday and will be mostly for "humanitarian" use - with priority given to people with health or social care needs.

It is hoped the eight-seat vessel will be able to make three trips a day to and from the village taking food, medicines and other supplies.

Residents will also be able to use the service to get back to work and to shop.

Where space is available, it will also be available to help take the half dozen children remaining in Muchelney to the mainland at a drop point a few hundred metres from Huish Episcopi Academy.

The support boat will be accompanied by a rescue boat and will not operate if conditions are deemed to be unsafe.

The boat will only operate in daylight hours.

"We have listened to the community and moved as quickly as possible to provide this boat," Councillor David Hall said.

"For obvious reasons, the use has to be prioritised for those in maximum need and safety is absolutely paramount.

"We are hopeful that flood waters will start to recede before too long and village life can return to normal, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

"A lot of organisations have helped make this possible and my thanks go to them."

Councillor Hall said the council, which earlier this week announced £50,000 funding for flooding hardship cases and also £200,000 for community flood relief projects, had stepped up to help people in their hours of need.

"We have seen many people hit very hard by these floods," he said.

"They have been described as once in 100 year floods but we have seen serious flooding now in the same areas for two years in a row.

"We are working hard to support people and communities as best we can while operating under our own very challenging financial situation."

Meanwhile, the organisers of the Somerset Levels Relief Fund, which is aiming to raise £1 million towards the cost of dredging the rivers Parrett and Tone, has kicked off its appeal by pledging between £15,000 and £20,000.

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