Flash storm causes havoc

7:51pm Tuesday 17th July 2007

STUDENTS had to be evacuated from their school after a flash storm caused its sewerage system to overflow.

Bishop Barrington School, Sports with Mathematics College on Woodhouse Lane, Bishop Auckland was just one victim of the torrential downpour which struck parts of the North-East.

Dozens of properties in East Durham were flooded and rail services hit by the rain which was unleashed between 3.15pm and 4.45pm.

Bruce Guthrie, head teacher at Bishop Barrington, said: "This is the worst flood we have had. The toilets have overflowed in three of the downstairs bathrooms causing a health and safety problem, which is why we had to send the students home.

"The school grounds are totally flooded at the entrance and back yard and water has entered one of the main entrances and is nearly a foot deep.

"A jet wash team from the local authority will sort out the problem tomorrow and I am just pleased that it is the end of term so education hasn't been affected too badly."

Students will be off school on Wednesday while the problem is resolved.

Meanwhile, firefighters from Bishop Auckland Fire Station rescued five people from two vehicles on Clifford Avenue.

St Andrew's Road was also closed due to flooding.

Parts of the towns electricity was off for nearly two hours after the storm, with power being restored around 6pm. Shops on Bishop Auckland town centre were forced to close early.

County Durham fire and rescue service dealt with 65 calls in around an hour relating to the weather.

Duty officer Chris Hockaday said some streets had between one and two feet of water and in some houses it was 6ins deep.

The worst affected areas were Blackhall Colliery, Horden and Peterlee.

Mr Hockaday said: "It is because the drain system cannot cope with the sheer volume of water.

"It comes down so quick in such a short period of time.

"It is just a matter of sitting and waiting until it goes down, but we have been helping by sending pumps to the streets to clear it quicker."

Firefighters were called to School Avenue in Blackhall Colliery, Ocean View, Macbeth Walk and Dixon Rise in Horden as well as Chilton Garth in Peterlee.

Mr Hockaday added: "The carpets and floors have been damaged, but it is not so deep that people are having to stay upstairs.

"The kids are playing in it in the streets and most people are worried about their houses but they realise we are doing everything we can.

"It has come as a shock because it came down so quick."

In Peterlee, heavy rain and flooding caused serious damage to Dene Community School of Technology, leading head teacher Joan Low to close the school on Wednesday.

Gordon Tennant, who represents Peterlee East on Durham County Council, said: "The raindrops looked like coins coming down and it rained for a good hour."

The downpour led to disruption for rail travellers, with the hourly Northern Rail service between Sunderland and Hartlepool hit by flooding in the Blackhills Farm area at around 5.15pm.

Services were terminating at Seaham and Hartlepool, with the company organising a replacement bus service between the two.

Do you have photos of the flooding? Email them to the Northern Echo at newsdesk@nne.co.uk

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