Suffolk farmers save schoolchildren stranded in Storm Babet

Environment and climate
NFU member and arable farmer Angus Hamilton stood in front of a tractor

Photograph: NFU member and arable farmer Angus Hamilton rescued children in his tractor

Quick-thinking farmers in Suffolk have been praised after rescuing children stranded in two village schools surrounded by deep flood water during Storm Babet.

Dozens of children were unable to leave Debenham High School and were facing spending the night in the sports centre next door until farmers came to the rescue in their tractors.

Pupils were also rescued from Sir Robert Hitcham Primary School in the same village.

The schools had become islands due to flooded roads and only tractors could make it through the flood waters, which were two or three feet deep in some places.

Farmers fighting floods

NFU member Angus Hamiton, an arable farmer based in nearby Little Stonham, was among those who helped to rescue children stranded in Debenham High School during Friday’s floods.

He said: “I went out to pick up a friend who was caught up in it and saw Debenham High School was stranded.

“The village is at the bottom of a valley and all three ways in and out were blocked. The school is on a hill and was surrounded by deep water so there was no way out.

“It looked like the children would have to spend the night in the sports centre next door. A lot of parents were pretty worried and didn’t want that to happen so I was happy to do what I could to help.”

Glenn Buckingham

Every brand of tractor was out and about. It was a group effort.”

NFU Suffolk branch deputy chairman Glenn Buckingham

Mr Hamilton drove to the school in his tractor and transported several of the children home safely.

He added: “There were many farmers out helping out at the high school and the primary school on the day and everyone was chipping in.

“I was there for a couple of hours. Some were there a fair bit longer.

“It was good to see everyone coming together to help out and to see the children getting home safely to their parents.”

‘Stepping up to the plate’

Many farmers also helped members of the public who were stuck.

Glenn Buckingham, deputy chairman of the Suffolk branch of the NFU, who farms the Helmingham Estate at Framsden, near Debenham, spent Friday morning trying to help the village’s householders avert flooding.

“There was so much water,” he said. “We had 30mm of rain overnight and between 8am and 5pm another 50mm.”

When it became clear that for some unlucky ones the influx was just too powerful, with around eight homes in the village flooded, Glenn helped out by ferrying children from both Framsden and Debenham primaries.

“There were many tractors - it was the obvious choice. Anything high was the only way,” he said.

“Every brand of tractor was out and about,” he added. “It was a group effort.”

Farmers also helped out stranded drivers by giving them dry passage through the floods.

“I know there are lots of people who are very grateful,” he said. “By the time I collapsed into bed that night I thought it was harder than a day of physical work.”

Zoe Leach, NFU East Regional Director, said: “It is really great to see our members getting out to help people during the floods in Suffolk.

“Our farmers always step up to the plate to help the community during extreme weather or in any other time of need.

“They have done us proud once again.”

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