Finsbury Park flooding: Volunteer tells of dramatic scenes as real-life disaster interrupted emergency drill

PUBLISHED: 10:36 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:36 11 October 2019

Helena M preparing beds at the rest centre.

Helena M preparing beds at the rest centre.


A Red Cross volunteer found herself responding to a real-life crisis after a training exercise was scrapped and she was drafted in to help at the Finsbury Park flooding.

Fire crews at the scene. Picture: David NathanFire crews at the scene. Picture: David Nathan

Helena, who asked us not to print her surname, woke up on Tuesday to find the water was off in her home, which is minutes from the pipe that burst in Queen's Drive.

She planned to deal with it after returning from the Woodberry Down Estate, where she was meant to spend the morning at a simulated tower block blaze in her role as a community reserve volunteer (CRV).

But by the time they got there it had been scaled back, and soon it became clear that the focus was on the devastating flooding that affected 250 homes.

So instead she spent the day at the West Reservoir Centre, transformed into a rest centre for households impacted.

A bedroom ruined by the flooding. Picture: David NathanA bedroom ruined by the flooding. Picture: David Nathan

"The council was working to support people, but we were an extra pair of hands," said Helena. "We set up two rooms and it was pretty quiet at first, but more people arrived as the day went on.

"I was talking to the residents whose homes had been flooded and making sure they were comfortable, checking they had food and drink, and asking if they had any medical conditions or other needs.

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"It's tragic some had their homes completely flooded. Obviously it was very shocking for them, and terrible for them not to know what was going to happen next.

People living in Brownswood Road woke up to flooding. Picture: @TomashhEvansPeople living in Brownswood Road woke up to flooding. Picture: @TomashhEvans

"But they did seem glad to have our support. It was nice that we could spend a bit of time with people and show them some kindness.

"I'm especially glad to be involved as I live so nearby that these people are actually my neighbours. I would have wanted to help anyway, so I was glad I could do it in my Red Cross role."

Working with the council and Thames Water, the British Red Cross team supported 45 people at the rest centre and a further 15 in Queen's Drive on Wednesday.

The charity's senior emergency response officer Roman Lagnado said: "Obviously having your home and possessions damaged is very distressing, but we try to offer people wide-ranging support to help them cope.

"We take the time to find out how people are feeling, and what their individual needs might be, so we can help.

"Sometimes that means having a cup of tea and a chat, doing some shopping for someone, getting hold of medication, or advocating for them and passing along information."

Anyone over 18 who wants to volunteer as a CRV can sign up at

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