‘BLIND panic’ is how a narrowboat dweller described the moments he and his disabled wife were trapped in their sinking home in the wake of Storm Bronagh.
The storm sent an eight-tonne tree crashing down onto Clive and Liz Humphreys’ boat in Clifton Wharf last Thursday night (September 20).
The impact left the couple scrambling to find their pet cat Maggie and escape their home, which was leaning on its side and being pushed underwater by the weight of the tree.
Clive said they were lying in bed when they heard an ‘almighty bang’.
“I’ve heard nothing like it,” he said. “The closest I can come to is the sound you sometimes get in big industrial scrapyards where they’re breaking stuff up. It was very sudden.
“The boat leaned over at an alarming angle and there was water pouring into the engine bay.
“Then came the blind panic to try and get off and find the cat – who by this point was buried in a pile of books and DVDs. Liz thought she was still at the foot of the bed, where a refrigerator was now lying.
“It was a bit panicky! We were turning everything upside down while falling over all the time.
“We were trapped because we were at a funny angle and objects had fallen all over the place, so it was very difficult to move.
“If nothing was done, the boat would have ended up at the bottom of the canal.”
Thankfully, Liz called wharf owner Rob Over who ‘jumped into overdrive mode’ and arrived with a telehandler – a small cross between a forklift and a crane.
Unable to lift the tree, Rob took some weight off and then dragged it off the couple’s boat.
The accident caused an estimated £30,000 of damage – some of which will not be covered by their insurance policy.
Clive said: “The damage doesn’t look horrific at first glance, but to fix it is a massive job. Everything inside one end of the boat has to come out.”
Clive and Liz, both 57, now face spending more than two chilly months without a home until it can be repaired.
“That’s the killer,” he said. “The policy’s allowance for alternative accommodation doesn’t provide enough for us to even rent a room.”
In the meantime, they are staying in their campervan – “It’s a bit chilly, very basic and very small.”
It is far from ideal for Liz, who suffers from ME and Functional Neurological Disorder – meaning she finds it difficult to get around, and is often in considerable pain.
Liz’s brother James Kearns has launched a fund-raising appeal to help the couple meet the costs not covered by their insurance.
“It’s heartwarming,” Clive said. “We’ve even had relative strangers offering money because they know of us – or they know the boat, called No Problem, which was quite famous in canal circles.
“And I can’t speak highly enough of the people here at the wharf who have helped us. They’re fantastic, lovely people.”
Visit www.gofundme.com/65skk94?member=809294 to donate.