Dozens rescued and homes evacuated after burst pipe causes Lewisham flood

The coach that got caught into the flooded sinkhole last night. Photo: Daniel Lavelle

The coach that got caught into the flooded sinkhole last night. Pic: Daniel Lavelle

A coachload of tourists had to be rescued by firefighters last night after their tour bus got stuck in a sinkhole – when a burst pipe left Lewisham town centre under water.

The sinkhole was caused by a burst water main that led to major flooding transforming Lee High Road into a river. As well as the high street, flats and businesses were flooded.

Fire crews were initially called on Saturday evening and rescued 40 people from the coach, while sandbags were distributed to residents and businesses.

Another 40 people were also evacuated from their homes and moved into temporary shelters, while approximately 3,000 homes in the surrounding area have been left without water.

The coach during the flooding. Photo: Kerry Welsh

The coach during the flooding. Photo: Kerry Welsh

Drivers and pedestrians in Lewisham have been advised to avoid Lee High Road.

Police declared a major incident and a shelter set up for those displaced at the Leemore Centre nearby.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told Eastlondonlines: “Officers from Lewisham remain at the scene of the burst water pipe on Lee high road, along with Thames Water and Lewisham council. Local roads remain closed.”

Good luck getting through #Lewisham tonight…

A photo posted by Frankie Mines (@frankos9191) on

Lee High Road remains closed, and according to Police will be shut “for some time”.

Many people were stranded and unable to get home. It might be two weeks until the road can be opened again.

A Thames Water spokesman said: “We’re very sorry to customers in SE3 experiencing problems with their water supply as a result of our burst water pipe on Lee High Road. We have a large team on site working hard to get things back to normal for those affected and we hope to have supplies restored by the end of the day.”

“We’re arranging for bottled water to be brought to the area and details of collection points will be available on our website shortly. We’ve also contacted vulnerable customers. We’ll begin the repair to the pipe as soon as we can.”

Restaurant owner Foyeg Ahmed Kazi, said he was told that his business would have to remain closed until the pipe had been repaired, which will cause him to lose money.

Several passing by the High Street shared their footage of the road on social media. An Instagrammer added a video with the caption: “Random and sudden rainless flood. We parked our car in a parking lot of a grocery store and….. everything was normal! We get out the car and start walking when we realise there’s water flowing at us at an unbelievable rate.”

Thames Water confirmed the water was from a burst main and it’s team were at the scene working to fix the problem.

Sinkholes: an explainer

This sinkhole in Lewisham is the second to appear in South London in 2016, adding to the number of sinkholes that have occurred nationwide.

According to scientists, occurences of sinkholes in the UK have increased drastically in recent years. Earlier this year a 13ft sinkhole appeared above a sewer in Forest Hill, leading to major disruption to transport links in the area.

The Bayou Corne Sinkhole located in northern Assumption Parish, Louisiana, is the largest man made sinkhole on record. It appeared after an underground salt dome cavern collapsed. The sinkhole, discovered in August 2012, originally spanned 2.5 acres and is now over 35 acres in size.

Sinkholes can occur both naturally and as a result of human activity.

They occur as increased water flow dissolves soluble bedrock, creating an underground void. They often occur as a result of large amounts of rainfall, and can develop over thousands of years – or more suddenly. Whilst some appear gradually, some appear suddenly as ground gives way to an underground cavity.

Reporting by Nora Matty and Daniel Lavelle.

Follow Daniel Lavelle and Nora Matty on Twitter.

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