World Earth Day: Flood victim 'living in fear' of climate change impact

A Welsh flood victim has spoken of the devastating impact of climate change on her life, as people across the globe mark Earth Day - the world's largest environmental movement.

Joolz Stewart, from Aberdulais in Neath Port Talbot, has lived at her beloved canalside home for around 20 years, with no issues for the first 17 years.

But after being hit by Storms Callum and Dennis, the property suffered two devastating floods in under two years - something Joolz attributes to the effects of climate change.

Today, she says her home is still in a "really bad way" and the community lives in constant fear of more flooding.

If it's raining, the sofa goes on the table. And it has become quite normal.

Joolz Stewart, flood victim

"We had the initial flood in February last year, then we had lockdown so the street was just completely isolated. We couldn't get anyone in to help," Joolz said.

Residents were left to try to sort out the destruction as best they could - and then a second flood hit.

Joolz added: "The place is still drying out. The kitchen has been eaten by rats. We've got no carpets on the floors.

"I know I shouldn't look at it like this, but I've thought 'What's the point of paying money out that we haven't got when it's going to happen again?'. Because until we've got something sorted - some preventative measures - it's pointless doing anything."

A photograph taken by Aberdulais resident Joolz Stewart of her community affected by flooding. Credit: Joolz Stewart

Joolz has learned to live with the "heartbreaking" reality that her home could be flooded again at any time, now taking anything of value upstairs as soon as it starts to rain.

She said: "Even my two-year-old granddaughter knows if it's raining, it's, 'Shall we take this upstairs, nan?' Books, things that are valuable to me - everything goes upstairs. The sofa goes on the table. And it has become quite normal.

"If it starts raining and I'm in work, I'm coming home to make sure the house is safe and the animals are safe."

Joolz Stewart said she lives her life "anxious and frightened" of more flooding.

Wales was one of the first nations to declare a state of climate emergency, but already the impacts of climate change - milder, wetter winters and increasingly severe weather - are being felt here.

Across the country, homes, business and livelihoods have been lost to a series of storms. Evidence suggests severe weather events will become more frequent than ever, unless urgent action is taken.

Roger Falconer, Professor of Water Engineering, told ITV News: "We're going to be hit in terms of flooding on two fronts - coastal and river flooding will be much more intense. More rainfall - higher rainfall than ever before.

"To assume we're going to be able to solve these problems just by natural flood management processes... they're important. but we have to have hard engineering solutions."

For Joolz, those solutions can't come soon enough. She says she has never suffered with poor mental health, but now, along with her neighbours, lives her life "anxious and frightened".

"As soon as there's a little bit of rain, everyone's anxious," she said.

"No one sleeps at night. It's scary stuff."

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