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‘We could have drowned’, say victims of burst water main flood

Planning expert says area around Churchway has “an internal drainage basin, like Mexico City but smaller”.

02 November, 2017 — By William McLennan

Paul and Sue Guyver

A BURST water main left residents fearing they could have drowned in their homes after they woke up to find five feet of water outside their bedroom windows and a flood gushing through basement flats.

Residents were this week surveying the damage in and around their properties in Somers Town after a broken 16-inch pipe in Eversholt Street sent water cascading towards Chalton Street at around 4.30am on Friday, submerging backstreets. Firefighters worked through the early hours, wading through the mess as they tried to alert people and clear the water.

NHS midwife Susan Guyver, who lives in a basement flat, said: “The speed it was coming through was terrifying. If the windows had gone we would have been drowned.” Waking in the middle of the night, Ms Guyver and her brother Paul desperately carried their belongings upstairs to avoid water damage. They were forced to rip up the floorboards on Saturday and are now awaiting ­confirmation of when the bedroom will be ­habitable again and whose insurance policy will pay for the works.

In the meantime, Ms Guyver and her six-year-old daughter are living in a hotel. She said: “We couldn’t see anything. It was so dark. We didn’t even know to switch off the electrics and we were wading around in the water trying to save my brother’s stuff.”

Ms Guyver said she had not been told whether the flood created a health risk, adding: “A far as we know it’s clean water, but it picked up all the rubbish from the street. We weren’t told by Thames Water whether it was clean or not, we found out more from the news than from them.”

It is the second time the family home has been damaged by a burst water main, after an earlier flood in the early-1990s. Ms Guyver’s mother, Patricia Collins, said: “I was in tears. I just felt so helpless. My home was being ruined again and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I love this little place.”

Michael Edwards, a planning expert, said it was a “foreseeable flood” and described the area around Churchway as “an internal drainage basin, like Mexico City but smaller”.

Mr Edwards, a teaching fellow at University College London’s Bartlett School of Planning, said: “The land slopes down to the bottom of Churchway from all directions. It seems to be a matter of common sense that if you have a hole, a hollow, like that you need some tremendous drainage capacity to prevent flooding.” He added: “I’m not blaming anybody but it is something that could be foreseen.”

Footage filmed by Ms Guyver shows the basement flat under several feet of water, with the pressure forcing water through the window. She said: “It looked like a fish tank. Thankfully the glass didn’t break.” Jagdish Belani said the ground floor of his home in Churchway was covered by mud and damaged by floodwater.

He added: “There was banging at the door and we realised something had happened.We saw from the window it was flooded. It was around 4am. We put bin bags on our feet and walked out. My phone was on the floor charging – that’s been destroyed, so has my TV.” Marguerite Ramazani said: “We were asleep, my son was watching TV and he started to hear fire engines. When he came out there was water everywhere. The fire brigade told us to stay inside. The floor, the furniture, the phone that was on the floor. It’s all damaged. Even my car is damaged.”

Marguerite Ramazani on her doorstep PHOTO: Simon Lamrock

A Thames Water spokeswoman said: “After any burst of this kind we always take time to review the incident, how we responded and what could potentially be done to reduce the risk of future problems. We’re really sorry for what happened and understand the impact the burst has had on the lives of the affected residents. We’re doing all we can to support them individually with their claims to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible.”

Engineers have replaced the broken pipe and work to repair the surface of the road continues, with Eversholt Street expected to reopen to traffic on Friday, bringing an end to week-long bus diversions.

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