Organisers of the Welsh Winter Fair have refuted claims they could have done more to prevent cars from flooding at the show on Monday (30 November).
More than 20 cars are likely to be written-off after the River Wye burst its banks and sent a torrent of muddy water cascading into the car park at the showground.
Visitors who arrived at the showground after 4pm were worst affected as their vehicles were near the back of the car park where the water hit first.
Some returned to the car park two hours later at around 6pm to a scene of devastation, with floodwaters up to 4ft high in areas engulfing cars.
One visitor whose car was written off in the floods described the scene as “like witnessing a graveyard of cars”.
A number of angry showgoers have contacted Farmers Weekly to complain about how event organisers the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS) responded to the floods.
— Fforest Fields (@fforestfields) November 30, 2015
— Matthew Paul (@matthewgpaul) November 30, 2015
They said local businesses, including the Toyota garage opposite the showground, knew about the red flood alert issued by the Environment Agency and were informing their customers with notices.
Good day at #winterfair . Very lucky that my car wasn't flooded. Others not so lucky. Good to catch up with so many people.
— Gareth Davies (@garethgrassland) November 30, 2015
One visitor arrived at the showground at 4pm and parked her Toyota in the car park.
“I left my car there, but when I returned at 6pm the water was up to the bonnet and my car was ruined,” she said. “It was devastated after being there for just two hours.
“I had to wade through the water to find my car. If I had drowned, what would they have done?
The woman said there were about 50 cars affected. “It was absolutely awful. It was like a graveyard of cars.”
She said local businesses knew about the flood warning and they were telling their customers at about 3pm.
And the woman questioned how the event organisers could not have known about the flood warning.
She said: “The Environment Agency had put out a red warning for flooding. Local businesses knew about it and they put up notices.
“When I phoned the showground later, I said this to them. They said: ‘Oh, we didn’t know anything about it.’”
One woman teacher from Builth Wells said her Peugeot 107 was also written off in the flooding.
She parked the Peugeot in the car park at around 4pm. But when she went back to retrieve her car at around 6pm, it was submerged in up to 4ft of water.
The teacher also lost valuable schoolwork and personal possessions. She said she was offered no help and decided to walk home.
“The river was extremely high. I know for a fact that businesses in the area knew about it (red flood warning). They had a warning at about 3pm. I checked with the police,” said the teacher.
“I have no idea why the organisers were not in on this. How could they not know? I don’t think they had a flooding plan in place.”
As she walked home, the teacher heard announcements being made about the fireworks, but nothing about the flooding.
“It was like the Titanic sinking and they were still carrying on playing the music,” she added.
Later, when her friend rang the showground to ask for an explanation, she was told: “It was an act of God. It was not our fault.”
But the organisers insist there was nothing more they could have done, saying they had no prior warning and the flooding was an “act of God”.
An RWAS spokeswoman said: “There wasn’t a flood risk notification and we were not notified of impending flood alerts.
“When we realised water was rising in the car park it rose extremely quickly.
“It was decided because of the speed of the water not to put an announcement of the tannoy.”
According to the society, there were still 13,000 people on the showground when the water started rising and they felt making an announcement would have caused a “panic situation” that would endanger life.
“We didn’t want 13,000 people rushing back to the car park in the dark and causing a risk to life,” said the spokesman.
“We would have caused a panic situation if that many people were all returning to the car park at the same time and trying to move their cars in increasingly dangerous conditions; there was a significant risk to people’s lives.
“We had six vehicles from 4pm to midnight trying to help move their cars safely and an army of stewards.
“There was no way those six vehicles would have been able to help everyone.”
Instead the spokeswoman said they would have been in a “chaotic” situation of having to rescue people from flooded vehicles.
She said the society sympathised with those affected, but insisted that the situation could have been a lot worse.
“It’s very frustrating and distressing but at the end of the day no one was injured.”
Ambulances were on standby but they did not need to be used, she added.
In the meantime, people whose cars were flooded are being advised by the society to contact their own insurers.
The society said it was meeting with its insurers on Thursday (3 December) and would be in a position to make a further announcement in the next few days.