Businesses and residents are trying to get their lives back to normal today after a burst pipe just off Stoke Newington High Street on Sunday forced residents to evacuate and left 20 businesses flooded.
The flood happened around midday yesterday at the junction of Northwold Road and Stoke Newington High Street, and affected 150 properties. Several residents were stuck in their properties and unable to get home from work. Costs to businesses and householders are expected to run into into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The flood is the third major flooding incident caused by burst pipes in the capital in the last few weeks, with a similar incident at the Angel in Islington and the burst pipe which led to a coach becoming stuck in a sinkhole that formed on Lee High Road in the centre of Lewisham. The crumbling Victorian infrastructure of London’s water main system has been blamed.
The Stoke Newington 30-inch mains water pipe burst after water had been leaking from the location for a number of days. Daniel Bronks, 40, a cinematographer and local resident told Eastlondonlines: “In twenty minutes it went from this to like three foot deep…it was like a tsunami.”
Fire service crews yesterday used inflatable boats to evacuate vulnerable residents and help others recover belongings, as well as laying sandbags.
Locals were critical of Thames Water, saying that whilst they had been very helpful since the mains pipe burst, they should have taken action quicker once the early water leak had been reported.
Cecylia Sidor, 34, owner of the GingerBlack hair & beauty shop, told Eastlondonlines that the flood had got into her basement: “I have a sunbed down there, it’s done huge damage.” She said the water “has been running a week, maybe more than that.”
Streets were flooded to over a metre deep in some places. “I couldn’t get out, I couldn’t get the car out, the police were trying to stop me getting back into my house. There were six fire engines, dozens of police,” Bronks said. “I’ve seen tweets from people saying their places of work can’t have them now, so they can’t pay their rent…there’s a lot of problems, it’s not just the inconvenience.”
Michael Sinclair, 68, director of a property development company, Brett Sinclair Enterprises, was one of those whose property was worst affected by the flood. His basement formerly contained a sauna and steam room for a women’s only leisure centre. The pool has been empty and dry for two years since that closed, but now it is full again: with files, furniture, boxes, photo albums, and more floating in the murky flood water.
“The most important things I’ve lost are the family photographs I had down there, going back 50 years, the kids’ CDs and things like that. Those are irreplaceable – everything else just has a monetary value,” said Sinclair. “I also had my office down there, and all the documents and plans.”
Kriangsak Chinghirum, 64, owner of the Thai Cafe, had his kitchen basement flooded. “Thames Water said they are going to replace the fridges and clean the water out. It’s Christmas time, normally it’s busy. But until that happens I can’t reopen.”
A spokesperson for Thames Water said: “We worked with the fire brigade to minimise any flooding impact. It takes a long time to shut off a high-powered water main, to reduce the risk of pressure surges and further bursts elsewhere on the network.”
Thames Water director Bob Collington said: “It has been an extremely difficult week and, having visited and spoken to a number of those impacted, I am personally devastated for those customers who have suffered flooding so close to Christmas. We are doing everything we can to help them and will make sure they are not left out of pocket for what has happened.”
They added that the pipe had been laid in 1868, and that whilst they had been aware of a leak at the site on Thursday, they have to get permission to close the road to carry out repairs which had prevented them for taking earlier action.
Thames Water also said that they had been investing over £1bn a year in improving service over the last 11 years. In August a financial probe was launched by the National Audit Office over the “unusual” financial structure of Thames Water’s £4.2bn ‘super sewer’ project, which will be partially funded by increases in customers’ water bills.
Tower Hamlets Council said in a statement: “Northwold Road at the junction of Stoke Newington High Street, which is a Transport for London-controlled red route, remains closed to traffic, and will likely remain so over the Christmas period; motorists should find alternative routes. Bus diversions are in place.”
The London Fire Brigade said “these floodings have shone a light on what the brigade’s resources are in terms of flooding and we are asking the public to give their views” in their consultation on the draft London Safety Plan.
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