Test Valley Borough Council have been working around the clock to keep the supply of sandbags going to those homes and businesses that need them during this terrible time of flooding and freakish wet weather.
Homes around the County are falling victim to the rising water table levels, flooding from rivers and rain falling on already saturated ground.
Today, Andover & Villages spent time with Paul Wykes, who is Head of Environmental Services at TVBC, and runs the Portway Depot. Paul told us that staff have been working heavily since Friday night, filling sandbags, which have to, in the main, be filled by hand, tied and put on pallets, ready to be shipped out by an army of TVBC vehicles. Unfortunately, as the sand loads are so heavy, minimal amounts of bags (around 30) are going out at a time, which makes the process a long one.
Paul told us that one ton of sand makes around 36 sandbags, and, considering that some 16,000 sandbags have been made up and delivered from the Portway Depot since Friday evening, that is a lot of sand. The Depot yard is so busy. Staff, forklift trucks and tractors go about their work busily, sandbags being filled so quickly by men and women, who appear to have a strength that I can’t comprehend. They literally power through the lifting of heavy spades of dense sand over and over, seemingly understanding the urgency of those who need these bags so desperately.
There was a presence of camouflage trousers and tops and Paul told me the Armed Forces had been helping to fill the bags. On Wednesday, the Navy had 120 men and women taking shifts to fill bags, which we were told was phenomenal to see. Working like machines, they filled 1000’s of bags. Today (Thursday) saw the army come in and fill bags for the day, some 20 men were working from the Arborfield Reme and, whilst we were there, another truck load arrived from Borden with more troops to help work through the night.
The boys from Arborfield told Andover & Villages that earlier in the week they had helped with sandbags in Chievely. They told me it wasn’t that hard and that they would have a little ache in the arms the following morning, but the boys were in good spirits and seemed to be enjoying a new challenge. I have literally never seen bags filled so quickly and consistently as I did today.
The reason the Army and Navy have been drafted in is because of the local Tactical Coordination Group (TCG), which is a multi-agency group in place to manage incidents. This allows staff to be deployed from Army, Navy, Police etc. into areas that require help in times of great need. This helps to manage resources available to councils who are in need of more manpower.
Council staff are working much longer hours to assist with the need for sandbags, and the office staff continue to take enquiries and ensure members of the public who come to buy or collect sandbags that are available and ready. We observed a resident from flooded-Chilbolton turn up and pack his car with the help of two TVBC employees, to take back home and shore up his house from the relentless water.
Two large army flat bed trucks arrived at the Portway Depot to collect pallets of sandbags and take down to the River Anton, next to Andover College, to build a defence against the rising water levels. TVBC employees loaded the pallets on with great skill and precision. The Army strapped them safely to the truck and were off in a convoy with Army officers in a jeep leading the way.
Andover & Villages was lucky enough to follow the convoy from the Portway Depot down into Andover Town Centre, to watch their amazing work. Already waiting for the bags to arrive, the 22 Engineers from Tidworth were pounding the sandbags on the edge of the water with spades and pick handles, compacting them down into brick type shapes. The trucks arrived and chains of soldiers, with ease, passed heavy sandbags, sometimes two at a time, on to the next waiting soldier. Officers barked the occasional order, but the men seemed to know what was expected of them.
Moving away to follow the Navy for 15 minutes, as they unloaded another truck of 6 pallets of sandbags, they were moving quickly to shore up a potential breach in the River Anton behind the Andover College Reception. Working quickly and with big smiles on their faces, the men and women from the HMS Collingwood, based in Farnham, worked quickly and efficiently.
Coming back to see the soldiers and their wall, I was astounded to see, in just 15 minutes, the wall was up and sturdy. Three bags high, they had made an amazing defence against any rising water from the River Anton. What a shame the Army and Navy weren’t sent to the Villages who have been in desperate need of muscle and skill for days.
On behalf of Andover and its villages, we thanked one of the Senior Army Officers for everything they were doing to help our communities. If you live locally please continue to support the great work Test Valley Borough Council is doing to help those affected by the floods.