After nervous night awaiting rescue, family escapes flooded house through upstairs window

Jessica Falk Perlman and her family were celebrating her mother's 60th in south Wales when Storm Dennis hit


Being bundled out of the top floor window of their AirBnB rental into a waiting boat was how Jessica Falk Perlman unexpectedly ended a long weekend celebrating her mother's birthday.

The 29-year-old, her husband, parents and her brother - who flew in from Canada - spent a nervous night and morning awaiting rescue from a house in the Welsh town of Crickhowell, after water oozed in and eventually reached the ceiling of the ground floor.

They had gone to celebrate Ms Perlman's mother’s 60th birthday, arriving on Thursday.

“Mum is from south Wales and we thought it would be nice to take her somewhere as a surprise," she said of Crickhowell, a picturesque medieval market-town of around 2,000 people, nestled under the Brecon Beacons that has become a hot-spot for hikers and mountain-bikers.

“All the local people we chatted to said that it does flood a bit sometimes, but nobody was expecting this."

Storm Dennis brought a month's rainfall in two days and Wales suffered its worst flooding for 40 years.

The Usk, which runs through Crickhowell, broke its banks and rose to its highest ever recorded level. Wales suffered its worst flooding for 40 years.

A neighbour came round to help them put up sandbags and firefighters closed the floodgates on the Usk. “They were doing all these things that were apparently really normal.”

By 10pm on Saturday, firefighters “were working hard but didn’t seem panicked” but, by the time the family went to bed, water had begun to ooze under the front door and Ms Perlman moved her valuables upstairs.

At 4am, firefighters knocked on the door and “sounded quite urgent and said that the river was going to go and that we need to evacuate”.

Within 30 minutes, the Usk had broken its banks and water began rising up the stairs of the house.

“It was quite worrying... the firemen couldn’t safely come back to evacuate anyone at that point so they had to call rescue boats in from Hay-on-Wye and Camarthen...

“The roads were all blocked, so the firemen were having to work through the night as it was really difficult to get more firecrews in. I really felt for them.”

Ms Perlman and her family were trapped until 12.30pm, when they climbed through an upstairs window in a boat.

During the wait, she said they tried to "keep perspective".

“We were all saying ‘isn’t this nerve-wrecking and inconvenient' but imagine being in a situation where you’ve been displaced and you are being flooded in a tented settlement that people are living in...

"For us on holiday it was just a shame.”

Many families and businesses had just finished rebuilding after Storm Calllum in 2018, but Ms Perlman, who lives in Walthamstow with her Israeli husband and works at emergency aid NGO the International Rescue Committee, noticed: “Hotels were giving free rooms to people who had been flooded. Everyone in the community seemed to be standing together.”

“Hopefully they will be able to get back on their feet as soon as possible."

Welsh Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones, who has raised some £12,500 to help local communities, said that some 600 people had been forced to evacuate, and that more than 1,000 homes had been badly damaged.

“It is absolutely tragic. Heart-breaking,” she wrote online. Six people are known to have died in flooding across Britain.

More than 450 flood warnings are still in place across the UK as Storm Ellen rolls in over the next 48 hours.

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