Sandbags and the Unimog: how charities responded to the floods

Sam Waddicor finds out how national charities have contributed to the relief effort in the affected parts of the UK

The British Red Cross unimog, which has been delivering fuel to cut-off communities in Somerset
The British Red Cross unimog, which has been delivering fuel to cut-off communities in Somerset

National charities have been active in many of the areas affected by the floods, working alongside and supplementing the efforts of statutory agencies, the emergency services and the military.

In Somerset, the Thames Valley, Kent and Wales, the roles they have taken on include supplying sand and sandbags, delivering supplies to flooded homes, checking on the welfare of vulnerable people and providing food and drink for emergency service personnel and volunteers.

The British Red Cross says it has been delivering fuel to cut-off communities in Somerset, using a Unimog, a vehicle capable of driving through flood water. The charity has been checking the welfare of the elderly in Wales and handing out emergency kits consisting of blankets, torches, hand-warmers and analogue phones. It has also been conducting door-to-door checks on residents in Kent to ensure they are safe and have the right support. Its volunteers have manned Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Buckinghamshire, which is being used as a rest centre for about 40 families whose homes are at risk.

Age UK says it has been active in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Berkshire. In Berkshire, the charity has been providing transport for the elderly back to their homes, once they have been deemed safe by the emergency services. Age UK Berkshire has extended eligibility for its small-grant programme to include those who have been affected by the flood. In Herefordshire and Worcestershire the charity has been providing practical support such as DIY, picking up shopping or helping the elderly to complete insurance claims. It has also helped them with phone and internet communications and provided language and cultural support for people from black and minority ethnic communities. Age UK says it has been discouraging volunteers from going into flooded areas while the water is high, but has been liaising with the emergency services so that once areas are safe they can move in and help.

In Somerset the older people's charity the Royal Voluntary Service says it has provided food, refreshment and emotional support to those displaced by the flooding. In Surrey it has provided food and drink for the emergency services, including more than 200 firefighters at Chertsey Fire Station who are helping those affected by the floods.

Muslim Aid says it has been working throughout the Thames Valley and south-west England to alleviate damage caused by the floods. Its volunteers have been distributing sandbags to homes in high-risk areas and assessing what help is needed where. The charity says it has been heavily involved in setting out a recovery plan for areas in the Thames Valley, including the town of Staines.

Khalsa Aid, a Sikh charity that usually works overseas, says it has been sending volunteers to many of the worst-hit areas and has supplied 250 tonnes of sand for sandbags in Berkshire and Somerset. In Somerset it has been working closely with the Flooding on the Levels Action Group, which has played a leading role in the relief effort in that area. Khalsa volunteers have been distributing sandbags and delivering food in all three regions.

The RNLI says it committed its Poole Flood Rescue Team to Somerset to help with ferrying supplies and transporting people to and from homes that have been cut off. Its teams have been helping to make areas safe again, so that people can move back into their houses once the waters have receded. The charity has also had volunteer teams in Berkshire providing advice and help to local people.

The Salvation Army says it has been providing hot food and drinks to emergency service crews and volunteers. It has deployed mobile canteens in both Kenley and Purley, south London, where a water treatment plant was at risk from the floods. Its volunteers converted the Salvation Army church hall in Addlestone, Surrey, into a distribution point and store for food, toiletries and cleaning products. In Bridgwater, Somerset, the charity's volunteers have been providing emotional support to those affected by the flooding.

- Find out how community volunteers have been supporting the flood relief effort

- Read our interview with music promoter turned flood relief co-ordinator, Heart Doe

- Third Sector editor Stephen Cook says community action needs help to survive when there are no droughts, floods or national emergencies

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