And one such machine, this amphibious long-reach excavator belonging to plant hire firm Land & Water, came to the rescue of a Suffolk village last month when the heavens opened and the seemingly endless deluge began.
Director Richard Maclean reports that Land & Water got the call from A-Plant and the Environment Agency at around midday on Thursday 12th December immediately after the first big tidal surge of the winter. They had an urgent need for a specialist machine to repair storm-damaged flood defences before the village of Walberswick, just down from Southwold across the River Blyth, was completely submerged under water.
The only machine for the job was an amphibious excavator that could travel over the very soft and flooded local terrain to repair the breached sea wall.
Land & Water's amphibious machine, a modified 7-tonne Hitachi Zaxis 70LC, was working on another customer's site at the time of the enquiry and so delicate discussions were required. Fortunately, the other client appreciated the gravity of the emergency, with people’s homes at risk, and agreed to let Land & Water have the machine back for the weekend to help out at Walberswick.
Wheels were immediately set in motion (quite literally) with the Environment Agency arranging its own emergency crew and associated equipment whileLand & Water had to collect the machine on Friday afternoon (the very next day). It then travelled overnight to Walberswick to allow it to be unloaded by 8am Saturday morning.
To make sure the works were completed on time, Land & Water supplied both day and night shift operators who at very short notice cancelled all other plans for the weekend. This enabled the machine to work 24 hours a day until late on Sunday when the works were complete. The excavator was then quickly cleaned off and loaded back onto overnight transport to be back on the original customer's site for 8am Monday morning – almost as if it had never been away.
Richard Houghton, operations manager at the Environment Agency says: "These flood defences could not have been repaired without this specialist plant and the Land & Water team behind it. We were impressed with the immediate response we received from them – especially at the point of enquiry where, by thinking outside the box (instead of saying the machine wasn’t available), they found a way to make the machine available. With a fantastic team effort between the Land & Water team and my own team, the job was completed safely, quickly and in a way that was extremely sensitive to natural environment around us.”
I can’t help thinking that when those Top Gear guys were trying to make amphibious vehicles not so long ago they should have checked this machine out first. There’s a video of it in action as well, although this is taken back in 2011, not on the Walberswick job.