Upper Street flooding: Homeowner saw ‘aquarium’ outside his window minutes before home was destroyed
PUBLISHED: 16:47 05 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:47 06 December 2016
A man whose home was wrecked by the Upper Street flooding has described the terrifying moment he opened his curtains to see six feet of water about to burst through the glass.
"I remember watching the terrible pictures of the tsunami in Asia, and this was the first time I’d really understood what the power of water was like"
Magazine editor Stuart Rock and his wife Jo Willett were woken by police at 6.30am and told of the burst water main near the entrance to Charlton Place.
The couple’s Devonia Road home had not yet been hit by the flood water, but they had to act fast.
Speaking from his car outside his home, Stuart told the Gazette: “We raced downstairs, which is the kitchen and living area, and saw water coming through the French windows like a tap – it wasn’t very much.
“But as I opened the curtains it was like looking into an aquarium. I’m 6ft 2in and it was over my head – the glass door was holding it back.
“The other houses had already been flooded. We had 10 minutes maximum to put every thing as high as we could, on tables and the tops of surfaces.
“All I was thinking was to get stuff off the floor. What we didn’t expect when it did give way was just how much water was coming in. Within a few minutes it was 6ft high.
“The water had come from Upper Street, funnelled through Charlton Place and into an alleyway. It had reservoired out and the force of that had broken down five or six garden walls. There was a mixture of bricks and plants and everything else piling into houses.
“All of our photos and my magazine archives are all wrecked.
“I remember watching the terrible pictures of the tsunami in Asia, and this was the first time I’d really understood what the power of water was like.
“The fire crews came quickly and were really, really good. they were organised and had a plan. Thames Water we’ve hardly seen. They said they were sending five loss adjusters but we haven’t seen anybody. They’ve not covered themselves in glory.”
Stuart’s neighbour, Jackie Monte-Colombo, was in her living room on the ground floor when the flood hit.
Had she been in her bed, which is in the basement, she believes she would have drowned.
The 64-year-old has lived in Devonia Road since 1979 and said her housing association had not been seen all day.
“They were less than helpful until the fire chief grabbed the phone off me and spoke to them,” she said. “They didn’t want to know before that. They said they’d send a loss adjuster with a surveyor tomorrow or Wednesday.
“I heard the bang at 4am and heard cars going through the water. I thought: ‘Blooming heck it ain’t half raining.’ But I opened the door and it wasn’t. I saw it coming down from Gerrard Road into Devonia and ran up to a policeman because I know an old lady in Gerrard Road. He literally carried her out of her home.”
Jackie is now coming to terms with what has happened.
“I’ve not got a piece of clothing,” she said. “All of my photos are destroyed and I’ve got one place to stay in Hackney, but I need to be nearby for when the people come round.”
Thames Water has apologised to everyone affected by the flooding, and said crews were now due to start digging down to fix the pipe.
A spokeswoman said the repairs were due to take all week and work would be carried out 24 hours a day.
She added: “We’re supporting those people whose properties were flooded by going door-to-door and meeting them at the Business Design Centre to discuss alternative accommodation for those who need it and our claims process.
“We’ll be doing all we can to make sure their needs are met. It was our pipe that burst and it’s our responsibility to put things right.”
She also denied claims by some that the failure to update the piping infrastructure had caused the rupture.
A council document from 2011 said Thames Water had confirmed the water supply network had the capacity to cater for the growth in population until 2015 – but no major updates have taken place since then.
“A burst like today’s would not have been caused by excess demand for water from our network,” the spokeswoman said. “The fact the burst pipe has been shut off since this morning and we’ve got no customers without water, shows our network is capable of meeting current demand.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was on his way to the bank before a pensioners forum meeting this morning when he stopped to speak to locals.
He told the Gazette: “It’s quite shocking, there’s a very impressive array of emergency vehicles here. We’re lucky to have such esteemed police and fire crews.
“I feel very sorry for everyone affected. The thing with flooding is, it’s not about the high cost items like the cooker or the fridge, it’s the personal things – letters, photos and records. That’s what people get upset over, and understandably.”
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