THERE were incredible scenes in Tadcaster as the main bridge through the town partially collapsed.

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The 300-year-old structure had been closed after the flooded Wharfe placed huge strain on it, and pieces began falling into the water on Tuesday afternoon.

Onlookers captured the dramatic moments on video, as a huge chunk of the bridge gave way and fell into the river below.

Sarah Topping, 35, of Stutton Road, Tadcaster, was helping to clear up inside Calcaria Carpets when she heard the bridge was about to collapse.

She said: “Every time we flood the bridge is unsafe but we’ve never seen flooding at this level.

“There’s been 6ft in places over the past few days.

“We were cleaning inside a shop when someone came in and said the bridge is going to collapse and we ran outside.

“I could see bricks falling into the river and we were thinking is it going to collapse or isn’t it, then it eventually did.

“We could smell gas straight away and we ran to evacuate people.”

Earlier in the day, hundreds of volunteers rallied to help get the flood-stricken town on its feet again.

Throughout Monday and Tuesday, local residents, business owners and national support groups gathered to help empty and clean flooded shops on both side of the bridge in the town.

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Allens Ironmongers in Tadcaster was the first shop to reopen following the flooding, and were visited by the Floods Minister on Tuesday.

Martin Raggett, owner of Allens, said he and his family had gone into the shop on Boxing Day and moved everything above the levels of the 2000 flood, but later that night discovered the river levels were much higher and had ruined a great deal of stock.

He said: "We've probably lost about half our stock. All kinds of things, from paint and gifts and timber, but we've managed to save some.

"People who have turned out and offered their time free of charge just to help the town out, it's been amazing, overwhelming for us. We were here until it got dark on Monday, and in from 9am because we wanted to get open. We thought it would be maybe a boost to get something open and just show it can be done."

Rory Stewart MP, Floods Minister, visited Tadcaster yesterday as the clean-up was fully underway, and thanked everyone who took part.

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Mr Stewart said: "I think Tadcaster has been very strong, very resilient, and it's incredibly impressive to see a shop back up and running so quickly.

"Huge thanks to the people who have come up to assist, Team Rubicon and local volunteers, it's been a fantastic response from the community. It's a horrendous experience but from my point of view the important thing is how relieved we are that we managed to stop the flooding in Selby but we must remember there are communities like this that have suffered terribly."

Nick Devine, owner of Devine Meats in Bridge Street, said he had lost thousands of pounds worth of meat, but also thousands more in equipment which had been contaminated by the floods.

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He said: "It was just like a bomb site. We had three six-foot chest freezers filled with pies and meat and the water had just flipped them over. I've never seen anything like it in my life. That will be thousands of pounds of stick and equipment we'll be losing or potentially losing but if it's contaminated, it has to go. We're thinking we should be able to salvage some of the equipment.

"The people who volunteered for us have been fantastic, I will never be able to say in words what it means to us. It's very humbling that they would come to help someone's business out of generosity of their heart, and it will never be forgotten. I've had phone calls and texts from customers offering to help, and the community support is second to none."