Stories from the survivors of the Lancaster apocalypse
If it had happened in London, it would have been all over the news
55,000 Lancaster homes were affected by Storm Desmond and had to live without power and water for days. Lancaster University was no exception neither. The university evacuated its students last Saturday from their accommodations to the common areas where lights, water and hot food were provided.
Ironically, the university announced its evacuation plan through online platforms such as Twitter, when students had no internet access to check with the school’s updates. Therefore a lot of students were caught off guard and had to pack their belongings in a rush.
We got the stories of brave souls that made it through the storm.
John Byrne, 19, Law major, almost sailed around the whole university.
John and his flatmates were having a flat party last Saturday night and all the lights went out all of a sudden. It yet to dampened their partying mood though. They carried on with the party, until late night, they were being told about the flooding situation in Lancaster when they were planning to head to town. So they stayed until early morning.
It was only the day after they realized how serious the flood was when they saw the pit outside their houses had turned into a giant pond.
John tells us: “So after not much sleep and probably still a little intoxicated, we thought it would be a good idea to sit out our hangover while floating on an air bed.”
When asked if he had thought of any emergency plan for the flood, he told us he was not the type to do such planning. Rather, he chose to live in the moment and fun becomes his first priority.
Perhaps it is true when they say “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Sooner or later John got bored of sailing on the small pond. So he moved to the bus underpass when he heard that it was completely flooded, after pumping some more air to the mattress in his room.
“So we launched from the base of the stairs and set sail towards the opening of the tunnel.”
However John was being dragged back to reality when he found out about the university’s evacuation plan. Instead of sailing back home with his friend on the air mattress, he was being given a ride by his friend who happened to stay over for a nice weekend in Lancaster.
Rebecca Clift, 19, Fine Art and Theatre Studies, struggled to go back home in Scotland
Rebecca’s Sunday night was surely exciting. She only knew about the evacuation plan around 30 minutes before she had to leave.
She said she was dissatisfied with the school’s emergency planning for such a short notice: “They were like check the Lancaster Twitter for updates. We would if we could get wifi or our 3G!”
She hurried to pack and clean everything before she left her house. She also had to empty her fridge before the food spoiled. Then after all the struggles she had already suffered, she was moved to a room in the designated area (The Great Hall), where there was an “indoor flooding” in which water was leaking in the corner of the cold damp room.
“Our room had a water leak. No carpet. It was pretty grim. And cold too. No WiFi.”
Rebecca then had to move all her belongings to another area (LICA) where there was WiFi, free hot food, better heating and water – and most importantly, no water leakage. That night, she told us that she had been having classes in LICA building for the whole term and she could not believe she was staying there overnight.
Though she was all settled in another place, Rebecca faced another challenge – to get back home in Scotland. All means of transportation to up North from Preston was unavailable until Wednesday. It was almost impossible for her to get home, however desperate she was. She looked through Ryanair, Easyjet, Trainline but failed to find a way to get home.
After some time of ranting, whining and on the edge of crying, she finally found the one and only bus ticket running from Preston to Glasgow online (though it was a four and a half hours bus ride and delayed for one hour in Monday afternoon).
Good thing is, Rebecca is now safe and sound at home in Scotland (while she has another home in Dubai). Having experienced such a chaos, she said: “All I kept thinking is this wouldn’t happen back home in the land of sand.”
Harvey Kwok, 19, Law major paid £200 for a cab ride
Harvey and his mates rented a hotel in Manchester on Airbnb the first night without power and water.
He also shared an utter disgust at the school’s emergency arrangement and backup plan saying: “We needed to get information about the school’s announcements through peers.”
Harvey managed to get a weak internet connection and phone signal outside the Security Center after numerous attempts with logging into the school’s WiFi. He stayed up with a few of his mates hunting for hotels and taxis in the cold and dark. They did find a hotel in the end and got there by a cab but he was charged unreasonably.
He tells us: “The taxi fare was £200 where it is normally £60 -£70, and he mugged us an extra £10 after.”
Despite being ripped off by the cab driver, the amount of money was not even comparable to their desperations of leaving the flooded town.
In the end, Harvey said the biggest irritation was seeing a bunch of local students being picked up by their parents, as he sat on a porch watching them being driven home, while he was busy figuring out a way to leave.
Adas Li (the writer), 20, English Language with Creative writing major, is half a refugee now in Germany
Not only was I frustrated with the school’s disaster management planning, I was also pretty hopeless about what to do. Even if I had an idea about what to do, I could not do it without light, phone signals and internet.
We saw people carrying luggage around the campus and thought they were going out to buy some basic necessities with their trollies. Only a while later we were being told by our housemates about the university’s evacuation plan.
We all rushed to our rooms and packed, without knowing that we had to stay in a hall for a few days, probably without showers and mattresses. Once my flatmates knew about it, most of them rented a hotel room together in Manchester, yet I was too broke to afford one so I decided to stay. When I was sitting in the cold, figuring out a plan B, my mum messaged me: “How come you did not message me these two days?”
That was when I knew WiFi was available again. And also no one knew what was going on in this town. I was pretty shocked because the flood hit the town hard. I bombarded my mother with lots of crying emojis, of course.
I immediately changed my flight ticket to Germany (where my flight was still cheaper than Harvey’s cab fare.) Thankfully, the WiFi in the refugee camp was stable enough.
Though I survived the storm, everything just escalated so quickly and I still felt like as if the flood was just yesterday.
Pàdraig Malley, 18, Social Work major, was having a campus tour during the flood.
Pàdraig was not aware of the flood when he was walking between colleges on campus last Saturday night. He was leaving Fylde bar, on his way to a house party in Pendle, and then suddenly all the lights went out. So he went to Central (an on campus supermarket) for some bottles of alcohol but unfortunately it was closed.
When he reached Pendle, he could not locate the house party. So he walked even further to Cartmel just to get some drinks from his other friend. After refueling himself with some booze, he headed back and stopped at Grizedale for the free WiFi. Then he dropped by his friend’s flat at Furness for a while, before going to Sultan for discounted cold food then County Main; eventually back to County South at 6am.
He said: “No blackout is going to stop my Saturday night fun.”
The day after, Pàdraig found out about the evacuation plan from his flatmates, when he was still half asleep: “I slept till 3pm when I got woken up to loud knocks, and my friends told me that the university was getting evacuated.”
Pàdraig was indeed shocked and confused, having woken up to a place where it was being turned into a refugee camp. He immediately phoned his parents and got the quickest flight out to Ireland the next day. Pàdraig also stayed at LICA building that night with his friends as well before he hopped on the plane home.
“Only because it had wifi, and I’m all about that life.”