Irthlingborough couple's Spanish home devastated by massive floods

A couple who moved to Spain from Irthlingborough 12 years ago were forced to leave behind their five cats and all their belongings during the worst storm in 140 years.

According to the couple's friend, Richard Foster, Richard and Liesl Cavender were evacuated from their home in Almoradi in the Alicante province on Friday when the river Segura was nearing the top of flood walls.

The scale of the flood can be seen in before and after aerial photographs. Richard Cavender's home is circled in both images.

The scale of the flood can be seen in before and after aerial photographs. Richard Cavender's home is circled in both images.

Mr Foster said: "All they have is the clothes on their backs and are relying on the generosity of friends, family and complete strangers to get by in the short term."

Mr Foster is now fundraising for the couple to help them while they wait for compensation after their house was demolished by the floods.

Richard and Liesl were only able to visit their home for the first time yesterday (Tuesday), when Richard filmed an emotional video assessing the damage for his insurance claims.

The ex-pats had been keeping an eye on the river that runs near their home since Thursday night, when they knew a huge storm was coming.

Richard (main) and his wife Liesl were evacuated not long after this photo was taken.

Richard (main) and his wife Liesl were evacuated not long after this photo was taken.

The river Segura is managed by some large flood walls that were put up after a breach around 30 years ago and on Thursday, Mr Foster said there was still around six to eight feet of wall above the water level.

He said: "By Friday morning, however, the mood had changed and things were looking pretty serious. Incredibly, the river was just a few inches from the top of those huge walls.

"Shortly after, they were evacuated from the area, having to leave behind everything except passports and some cash, including leave behind their five rescue cats."

Richard and Liesl were able to take their two rescue dogs.

The river on Thursday was higher than usual but still much lower than the flood walls on either side.

The river on Thursday was higher than usual but still much lower than the flood walls on either side.

"Later that day, unfortunately a section of the river wall failed, leading to a huge rush of water heading towards the town and their house," said Mr Foster.

They estimate that their house will have had around a foot of flood water flowing through it during this breach and they hoped their cats were safe in the house.

"Richard and Liesl just had to ride it out until they could get back to their home and assess the damage," said Mr Foster.

However, things took a turn on Sunday morning and Mr Foster said: "A further section of river wall closer to their house had now failed, leading to even more flood water crashing into their home, washing everything away with it including the five rescue cats who [were] presumed dead."

The river's water level rose rapidly and burst flood walls at several points.

The river's water level rose rapidly and burst flood walls at several points.

Writing on a fundraising page, Mr Foster said their home had been demolished and added: "They have lost everything, their home, their car, their practical and sentimental possessions, and their rescue cats (although one has since been found alive amongst the wreckage)."

The torrential downpours in southeast Spain only eased on Sunday following record-breaking levels of rainfall that has devastated large areas. According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the regional government of nearby Murcia wants areas to be declared a disaster zone.

Richard had set up an IT support business in Spain which serviced and supplied computers while Liesl ran a business selling replacement printer inks and toners. Both businesses were based at their home and Mr Foster said they've lost their only source of income and will have to start again from nothing.

Mr Foster added: "I’ve known them both for about 20 years, Richard gave me my first proper job as a young 17-year-old apprentice looking to get into the IT business. Richard worked for a small local IT company at the time and we went on to work together for many years for two different companies."

Richard Foster is fundraising to help his friends and has so far raised £8,408 of a £10,000 target in just two days.

He said: "The insurance system in Spain doesn’t cover 'acts of god', they have to submit a claim to the government which is likely to take many months before it is settled."

Mr Foster is also concerned the ordeal will be hard for his friend Richard because he suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a type of inflammatory arthritis which mainly affects the spine.

A couple from the UK have given Richard and Liesl the use of their holiday home in Spain for the time being, but Mr Foster is hoping to raise enough money to help cover what the couple will need to survive while they wait for compensation.

Details of the fundraising can be found here.