Lowestoft flood boats to the rescue in Suffolk

People in Suffolk whose lives are at risk from flooding and severe weather will soon be helped by a specialist boat team based in Lowestoft.

Yesterday saw the official launch of three flood boats manned by highly- trained crews from the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

The new boats comprise a 60hp jet drive engine Rescue One boat, crewed by up to three people, and two Avon 400 rapid response boats, which are used for search and rescue operations in deeper water.

The boats are due to become operational on Monday and will double the number of boats on duty in the county.

Yesterday, the three craft were put thorough their paces on Oulton Broad with firefighters showing how they would pluck people to safety in times of floods or bad weather.

Twelve coxswains were first trained to use the new boats at Oulton Broad Yacht Club and then went on to train in floodwater techniques with Professional Rescue in Poole, Dorset.

The three boats have been handed over to the fire service after a successful funding bid of more than �70,000 to the Department for Food and Rural Affairs in response to severe and devastating flooding across Britain over recent years.

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Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for public protection said: 'Prolonged heavy rainfall has caused concern in many parts of the county this year and I am confident the launch of the new boats will bring comfort to many.

'The boats, along with the purchase of flood suits for all frontline appliances later in the year, will enhance firefighters' ability to respond to flood events and help to protect the people of Suffolk.'

In 2007 the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service trained crews at three full-time stations at Lowestoft, Ipswich and Bury as specialist water rescue technicians, who can rescue people from moving water, mud and ice.

In May, the county's fire service rescued 20 people from their cars after they were caught up in heavy rain.

The Lowestoft team is looking to join forces with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service to provide a six-boat team offering greater support across the country and even Europe for large-scale flooding.

The grants for the three flood boats were part of the government's �2.7m Flood Rescue Grant Scheme to improve flood response in England and Wales.

Equipment bought with the funding will be added to a register of flood rescue resources emergency services across the country can call on in the event of a major flood.

anthony.carroll@archant.co.uk

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