Finsbury Park flooding: Thames Water stops flow of water, with up to 150 homes damaged
- Credit: Archant
A burst pipe that flooded streets in Finsbury Park this morning has finally been turned off – but neighbours are left counting the cost with up to 150 homes damaged and warnings that hordes of rats could be “flushed up” by the tide.
Water submerged basement flats and rose above car tyres in Queen's Drive, Brownswood Road and the surrounding area. Rescue shelters were set up at nearby community spaces, including the Castle Climbing centre, and an investigation is under way to determine what caused the burst.
It happened in Queen's Drive at about 8am, sparking biblical scenes that mirrored the devastation around Upper Street when a water main ruptured near the Angel in 2016.
Thames Water has spent hundreds of millions of pounds replacing and strengthening London's crumbling Victorian pipes in recent years but could not immediately tell the Gazette whether the latest burst had affected an old or new part of the network.
Hackney mayor Phil Glanville has criticised Thames Water saying the response has "not been good enough".
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He wrote on Twitter: "Some incredible frontline staff and engineers, but resources on the ground have not been adequate. While the multiple valves may now be being shut off, there is nowhere near enough water sites in the area."
Firefighters have been rescuing people from flooded flats, while lines of people wearing hiking rucksacks with what little they can carry on their backs - and one woman with a baby strapped to her front - waded through knee-high water to dry land.
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Brian and Margaret Bicknell, 74 and 69, were among the displaced people who escaped their soaking basement flat on the King's Crescent Estate.
Brian, a retired leather company manager, suppressed a sob and said: "It's your whole home. You work all your life, build up a house - and then it's just gone in one swipe.
"I have a heart condition and have had two knee replacements. My wife's had a stroke [previously]. We have all kinds of serious medication. We have managed to grab some of it but it's waterlogged."
Brian was shuffling along in wet slippers, holding his cat in its carrier above the water. They don't know where they're sleeping tonight - Brian's family are dead and Mary's live in Crystal Palace - although Thames Water's loss adjustors are expected to ensure everyone is rehoused who needs it.
He added: "We have lived here for 50 years and I have never seen anything like this before. We have nothing. Neighbours came and helped us out because I have trouble climbing stairs. Literally everything is gone: the cupboards, the beds, all the furniture. All the electric in the kitchen went: 'Bang.' At our age, being both pensioners, we are not well off."
Thames Water said some of its customers in parts of N1, N4, N5, N7 and N19 have experienced low water pressure or temporarily lost supply. They have staff on site and are arranging for water supplies to be handed out.
In the meantime, one woman was hanging out of a third-storey window on Weston Court, in Queen's Drive, shouting up to neighbours on upper floors to see if they needed bottled water. The block was surrounded by an impromptu moat.
One neighbour with a ground-floor flat, Lawrence, said: "I'm standing here kicking water out of my house. You panic and then you're upset and angry. It was a torrent. In my back garden it was three to four feet high. It has caused excessive damage."
A firefighter told the Gazette: "There is a chance rats could be flushed up. If you have had your hands in the water, wash them."
A Thames Water spokesman said: "We're really sorry to any customers affected by our burst main this morning.
"Our top priority now, having stopped the water escaping and restored supplies back to normal, is to support those impacted by the flooding. We have around 100 company representatives in the area as well as a community hub set up to take care of all their needs and handle all compensation claims.
"We're spending over £1million a day on our vast underground network to help reduce leaks, which often lead to these bursts, and working tirelessly to improve our customer service. We're also exploring all modern technology and techniques to gain tighter control of our ageing network to reduce the risk of disruption like this into the future."
In 2016, the burst water main in Upper Street devastated the surrounding area, flooding up to 80 properties, and affecting about 100 people. Days later, the scenes were repeated in Stoke Newington when a leak that had been going on for days in Northwold Road turned into a pipe burst. Thames Water apologised and said it had made a mistake in its risk assessment.