CUMBRIA was drenched with enough water to fill Wembley Stadium 290 times during Storm Desmond, county council bosses have been told.

The unprecedented rainfall which resulted in devastating flooding to thousands of properties across the area amounted to 1.15 trillion litres, it has been claimed.

The shocking figures were revealed to Cumbria County Council’s elected members at a full authority meeting yesterday.

Members were told more than 7,000 properties had been flooded with 18,132 left without power in the immediate aftermath of Storm Desmond on Saturday December 4.

A total of 60 schools were affected with three secondaries and a primary in Carlisle – providing education to around 3,000 pupils – set to be closed long term while the extent of the damage is assessed and funding is secured for repair work to get under way.

A presentation on the devastation seen across the area also illustrated that two bridges were lost and hundreds more damaged while the A591 linking Grasmere and Ambleside and Keswick was subject to 15 landslides and 5,000 tonnes of rubble.

Council chief executive Diane Wood said official estimates on the repair bill faced by the county authority now stood at £465m, with insurance companies expected to pay out around £1.5bn in private and corporate claims.

Diane Wood, chief executive of Cumbria County Council
She said: “One man lost his life, and watching the footage of the floods, I’m surprised there were not more fatalities.

“The fact that there weren’t is thanks to the work of the emergency services and rescue teams who provided an incredible response to what was happening.

“We are still the worst affected area and we need help from the government to enable us to carry out the work that is now required.”

Cumbria remains in official recovery mode, the meeting was told, with residents warned to expect more bridge closures as water levels recede allowing further structural inspections to take place.

Dominic Donnini, the council’s corporate director of environment and community services, said there were no quick fixes for Cumbria.

He said: “It’s going to take a long time. What we need to do next is to decide what we need to fix first, what we fix in the future and what we will be unable to fix at all.”

Members of the council described the flood damage as “unimaginable” and “biblical” in scale before praising the work of the emergency and rescue services and council employees.

Councillor Roger Liddle called for a committee of experts to be formed to produce a resilience plan for Cumbria, while also pledging to raise the issue in the House of Lords.

Cllr Liddle said: “There are questions to which we need answers and we shouldn’t pretend to be amateur experts.

“We should be looking to put together a high-level expert group to look at how we manage flooding in the future.”

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