Couple prepare to spend second Christmas out of flood-hit home amid incurable cancer diagnosis

A couple hit by devastating floods in November last year are preparing to spend a second Christmas out of their home as they cope with a crippling incurable cancer diagnosis.
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Pensioners Kath Smith and Mick Ryan moved into a friend’s rented annex after they were flooded out of their Fishlake home on November 8 last year.

But now, they are preparing for a second Christmas away from home, as the prospect of returning to their bungalow only adds to a weight of worry after losing everything last year.

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“It’s not easy, when you get to a certain age,” said Ms Smith, 76. “We are at the wrong end of the calendar to keep losing this time.

Kath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James HardistyKath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James Hardisty
Kath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James Hardisty

“I’m not going to stress about it, just to get home for Christmas.

“We are getting there. Others have had it worse.

“It’s been a tough year for a lot of people.”

The couple’s bungalow and belongings were completely destroyed in last year’s floods, as the water levels rose to knee-deep within the space of the first half hour.

The flood water at Fishlake, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in November 2019. Photo: PAThe flood water at Fishlake, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in November 2019. Photo: PA
The flood water at Fishlake, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in November 2019. Photo: PA

It took two months for initial insurance assessments to take place and now on their second set of builders, they are much happier that work is progressing at pace, although their home remains a ‘building site’ while they rent nearby.

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Mr Ryan, retired electrical technician, previously said her feared he would die before returning to his home.

“I would say it’s 50-50 if I see my own bed again,” he said earlier this year.

Speaking yesterday Ms Smith added: “It was just such a loss. Everything went, we had no time.

Kath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James HardistyKath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James Hardisty
Kath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James Hardisty

“I thought we would be home by now, but we are not the only ones in the village.

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“They say he doesn’t send us too much, that man upstairs, but I think we’ve had quite enough.”

The couple are just one example of those who are yet to return to their homes.

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons last month, where Flooding Minister Rebecca Pow said she was “acutely aware of the impact on businesses but also individuals as (Mr Jarvis) so clearly points out”.

Kath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James HardistyKath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James Hardisty
Kath Smith, whose home was damaged by floodwater back in 2019. Photo: James Hardisty

But Mr Jarvis said: “A year on from the devastating floods in South Yorkshire that affected more than 1,000 homes and 565 businesses, we know dozens of families have still not been able to return to their homes and are living in temporary accommodation.

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“The impact of the floods goes beyond material and economic damage, it carries a human cost of lives disrupted, homes abandoned, futures made uncertain and full of hardship.”

He added: “This year has been full of challenges but I will continue to fight for our communities and work with Government to ensure that homes and businesses in South Yorkshire will be best protected from the devastation of flooding.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that since 2015, more had been invested in flood defences in Yorkshire than any other region – £496m in total, better protecting more than 66,000 properties.

It said despite the pandemic, recovery from last year’s floods has also been continuing, with £120m available to carry out a programme of repairs to defences damaged by last winter’s storms and the extension of a £5,000 grant scheme for homes and businesses affected by flooding.