First Minister to visit flood-hit Brechin as clean-up continues

First Minister Humza Yousaf will visit Brechin on Monday to see where the River South Esk burst its banks and flooded dozens of homes last week during Storm Babet.

Residents living in River Street were first alerted to the danger of the body of water overtopping local flood defences on Thursday as heavy downpours caused levels to rise rapidly.

In the early hours of Friday, emergency services stepped up efforts to move people out of their properties as water started to spill over the sides of the defences and engulf the street.

Respite centres were set up in the town for individuals and families forced to leave their homes and residents only started returning in large numbers on Sunday to assess the damage.

Autumn weather October 22nd 2023
Brian Petrie stands inside his home in River Street, Brechin, which was flooded by Storm Babet (Neil Pooran/PA)

During his visit Mr Yousaf is expected to meet residents affected by the flooding and thank volunteers, local authority staff and emergency service personnel who played a part in the evacuation.

Angus Council said it has had an “overwhelming” response to an appeal for accommodation for people unable to return to their properties because of the damage caused by the floods.

A call for clothing and toiletries for those affected by the floods also led to hundreds of donations, the local authority said.

The First Minister’s visit comes after a councillor said some people in Brechin could be out of their homes permanently.

Conservative councillor Gavin Nicol, who represents the Brechin and Edzell ward on Angus Council, called for more funding from the Scottish Government, telling BBC Radio Scotland on Monday: “I can tell you the repercussions of the flooding will take months and years to resolve.

“Angus Council, unfortunately, does not have the resources to do the job, it needs to to protect the residents.

“We really need finance from the Scottish Government in order to protect our residents, to rehome them.

“Some will be out for months, if not permanently.”

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said the Scottish Government has to have a “frank” conversation with vulnerable communities on how Scotland prepares for events such as Storm Babet.

She told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “We do have to have some frank conversations with government and our communities because, with the best will in the world, the best flood defences will not give 100% protection 100% of the time.

“What we’ve seen with Babet is, over two days, two months’ worth of rainfall, which is exceptional, and the impact of that will be with communities for some time.

“Of course there’s been some really tragic consequences of the storm and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those affected.”

Autumn weather October 19th 2023
John Stewart with his flood defence outside his home in River Street, Brechin (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Two people died during the storm, which saw a rare red weather warning issued by authorities in the lead-up to it, warning of a danger to life in the north-east of Scotland.

On Sunday evening, police released a statement confirming the identity of a woman who died after being swept into the Water of Lee at Glen Esk at around 1.45pm on Thursday.

Wendy Taylor, 57, was described in a tribute from her family as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother and “a ray of sunshine” to everyone who knew her.

Elsewhere, a 56-year-old man was also killed on Thursday after a falling tree hit a van near Forfar. He has not yet been named by police.

Police confirmed on Monday morning that a search is continuing for a second man reported missing on Friday, who is said to have been trapped in a vehicle in floodwater in Marykirk, Aberdeenshire.

Most weather warnings expired over the weekend but the Met office issued a yellow ice warning on Sunday evening saying icy patches forming overnight could cause fresh disruption on roads across much of Scotland on Monday morning.

Autumn weather October 20th 2023
Members of the emergency services help local residents to safety in Brechin (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Yousaf said ahead of his scheduled visit: “My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives to the extreme conditions caused by Storm Babet during what will be difficult time.

“I want to pass on my thanks to local authorities, volunteers and the emergency services for all their efforts in these extremely challenging conditions.

“The local community in Brechin, like others across Scotland, has come together to offer support to all those affected by the floods, with Angus Council receiving hundreds of offers of alternative accommodation for those forced to leave their homes.

“The process of assessing the full amount of damage caused in all areas affected by the storm is now under way. This will take some time and we are working closely with local authorities to support the people and businesses affected.”

Angus Council chief executive Margo Williamson added: “I am tremendously proud of Angus’s response to Storm Babet.

“Working closely with partners from across Tayside we have done our best to preserve life in extremely challenging conditions.

“I would like to pay tribute to everyone who supported this effort, particularly our volunteer organisations such as the Red Cross, Voluntary Action Angus, and our Tayside 4×4 drivers who have played a vital part in this operation.

“Our staff in the council, in the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, and our leisure trust ANGUSAlive, have all gone above and beyond, facing challenges on an unprecedented scale.

“I would also like to reassure the residents of Angus, who have shown such community spirit, that their care and support is our absolute priority, particularly those who are displaced.

“We are now firmly focused on making a full recovery, and this work has already started.”