Sewage flooded flat as man struggled to report issues amid cyber-attack

Flooded flat entrance.

Vinesh Budhia said reporting flooding issues at Chelsfield Point in Hackney was made more difficult due to the ongoing effects of a cyber-attack on Hackney Council's online services - Credit: Vinesh Budhia

A Hackney leaseholder whose home has been repeatedly flooded with "basically human waste water" is "frustrated" with how difficult he found reporting the issue following the cyber-attack against Hackney Council.

Vinesh Budhia, who lives at Chelsfield Point on Penhurst Road, is currently in temporary accommodation provided by the council after several incidents of sewage flooding occurred in his block of flats in December last year and in January this year. 

He is frustrated at how difficult it was to report the initial flooding issues due to a cyber-attack which has disrupted online council systems since October 2020. 

Vinesh also believes earlier calls to Hackney Council were not taken seriously after he said he called the council on December 7 and was advised to contact a plumber and submit a report. 

The Chelsfield Point resident said: "So my plumber could not do anything. They said it was a drainage problem and that it was Hackney [Council's] authority."

A bath filled with sewage water.

Vinesh's toilet and bath were overflowing with sewage water due to a blockage in his building's communal soil stack pipe - Credit: Vinesh Budhia

Vinesh says the council told him to submit the report online but he was unable to do so since its web page was "down".

The resident felt he was "going in circles" during calls with the local authority, which he alleges continued to advise him to call a plumber and submit his report online. 

By December 15, Vinesh says the flooding had worsened: "I had been taking buckets of water and basically human waste water from flats above me. I'm at the bottom [of the block of flats] and, because it couldn’t go through the drain, it came out my toilet."

Most Read

However, Hackney Council says it responded to reports of flooding at Chelsfield Point on December 31 within 15 minutes. 

A council spokesperson said: “Our teams worked hard to clear the blockage and complete repairs over the New Year bank holiday, however the flooding recurred on January 4 during a follow-up visit.

"We investigated and cleared the blockage again, which was caused by a metal scourer and spring lodged in the pipework.

“We’d like to apologise to residents in Chelsfield Point for the disruption caused. We have carried out a full deep clean of affected properties.”

Flooding at Chelsfield Point.

The flooding also affected Vinesh's neighbours' flats and communal spaces and corridors - Credit: Vinesh Budhia

On December 31, the London Fire Brigade reported that a blocked communal stack was causing an upsurge of waste from the toilet and bath in Vinesh's flat.

Council staff responded to calls from Vinesh and his neighbours, sending an electrician and plumber when they were notified of the issues.

The council says Vinesh initially denied its staff access to the problem area and so were unable to clear the blockage. 

It says its staff advised him to seek alternative accommodation until the issue was resolved and they were able to clear the blockage, after several more incidents of flooding, on January 4, 2021.

Vinesh believes he will be in temporary accommodation for "at least a few months" as the flooding caused significant damage to his property and belongings. 

He added: "Since New Year's Day I have been living in accommodation and I'm getting a bit fed up really.

"I would rather be at home. It's just a bit of a headache and it's going to be a lot of work if work ever starts [on my flat]."

A fridge and laundry machine amid flooding.

The flooding in Vinesh's flat even reached his kitchen - Credit: Vinesh Budhia

The local authority says its online repair reporting form is currently unavailable due to the cyber-attack, and that it is working closely with the National Crime Agency and the National Cyber Security Centre to restore its services.

It has reserved about £2m in its upcoming budget to build its online services back up.

However, organised criminals who carried out the cyber-attack have already published some of the stolen personal data on the dark web and damaged backups to hinder recovery.

Experts supporting the council do not think the information - which is thought to be a "limited set of data" - has been published on a widely available public forum or that it is accessible through internet search engines.

Repairs can still be reported over the phone on 020 8356 3691.

Fire truck.

London Fire Brigade was called to the block of flats after reports of flooding on December 31, 2020 - Credit: Vinesh Budhia