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Sanctuary plea following near-death experience
The founder of an animal sanctuary almost drowned in a swollen river near Bognor.
Irene Clarke was stuck in the Kenynor Rife with her foot tangled in a ladder rung for about 15 minutes.
The 50-year-old had been trying to clear twigs and debris from the river to stop it flooding the Old Garden Animal Rescue Sanctuary and her neighbours in Siddlesham.
She said that the life-threatening moment made her rethink her safety arrangements at the sanctuary, which is struggling to stay open.
She said: “I thought I was a goner. The water was up to my neck but luckily I managed to keep my head above the water.
“Eventually I managed to get hold of the ladder and pull myself out.”
The terrifying ordeal on the Sunday before Christmas, when neither of her two volunteers were helping out, has left Ms Clarke keen to take on more helpers.
She said: “I set up the sanctuary with my brother Johnny, who died really suddenly aged 44 in 2007.
“His memorial garden was one of the areas which was at risk of flooding.
“When he died I had to carry it on. So much hard work had gone into it and he would have been devastated if it closed.”
Ms Clarke’s ordeal has made her rethink the future of the sanctuary and the 1,000 animals which call it home.
She is looking for new volunteers to help her look after the sanctuary.
She said: “It’s really hard to find volunteers and this year has been the worst. “People have been throwing chickens over the fence in the night and leaving rabbits in boxes outside at night.
“I rely on selling eggs in the summer to keep the cen- tre open but with the bad weather and lack of customers I cannot continue much longer.
“The future of the centre is at risk because I badly need some help.”
More animals mean higher bills and Ms Clarke is desperate for donations.
The sanctuary at Highleigh Road in Siddlesham is open between 8.30am and 4pm except for Tuesdays and is free to enter. Contact Ms Clarke on 0777 5670 819.