Rainham homes flooded to knee-level in sewage with sandbags unavailable
- Credit: Griselda Konti
After a night of torrential rain, with nowhere to pump away the mixed sewage and rain water, and apparently no sandbags available, desperate residents have called out for help to the keep water at bay.
London Fire Brigade received 93 calls in two and half hours to flood-related emergencies on Saturday night (August 15) in Rainham and South Hornchurch.
Within five minutes of the rain starting, Toni Stockley, 31, said she was up to her ankles in rain water and sewage in the front room of her home in Lambs Lane, Rainham. Come Sunday morning, the water was up to her knees.
After reporting the rising waters, Toni’s family who have an eight-month-old and a six-year-old, were told that the brigade couldn’t do anything because drains and sewers were overloaded. She was told that the council had been contacted to send 50 sandbags urgently.
With no sandbags in sight and the rain in full force, Toni said she was told by a Rainham councillor that “they didn’t have the manpower to supply the sandbags”.
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She added: “We have no idea where to get them. We ended up having to pick up building sand from B&Q.”
The family have lost all their downstairs furniture, children’s toys and clothes, sentimental photos and have moved upstairs for the time being. The council’s clearance team visited her house on Sunday to remove all the family’s belongings.
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Toni’s next door neighbour, 58-year-old Sharon Owens, said her ground floor was floating with faeces on Saturday night. Now with no electric and already £50,000 spent in repairing flood damage in the last four years, the house will be uninhabitable for another six months.
She said: “We’re frightened for our lives that we are going to lose our property, we are living in fear every time there’s a downpour.”
She added that she had has had an ongoing issue with Thames Water about the recurrent flooding, and thinks it is due to an antiquated draining system.
On site was a rescue unit, dingies rescuing residents with restricted access and 10 fire engines, pumping water out from 7pm on Saturday to Sunday afternoon.
Although rest centres were not permitted as relief for residents due to the Covid-19 risk, the Harris Academy secondary school received residents desperate for shelter and electrics.
Elaine Mason, also of Lambs Lane, said she had the same issues as Toni and Sharon – no sandbags and nowhere for the water to go.
She said: “Firefighters have just said all the sandbags have gone from this way. Can’t pump the water as nowhere for it to go. The houses up the road have no protection. The water is up to our step and back garden flooded. And the water is rising.”
Suzannah Gawler said: “We called the council last night as our garden was full of sewage and a centimetre away from being in our kitchen. They said they couldn’t do anything as it was on private property even though it’s the drain for several houses.”
Havering Council were on hand on Sunday helping to clear council-owned properties and assess damage.
Lead of Havering Council, Damian White said: “We did everything we could to prepare ahead of the weather that was forecast for the weekend, including making sure gullies and drains were clear.
“This was an unprecedented amount of rain in a short space of time and with the best will in the world, no amount of preparation work could have prevented the flooding.”
Likewise, a spokesman for Thames Water said: “Roadside gullies, which are the responsibility of the local authority, and Thames Water’s sewers are designed to cope with most storms. But rainfall is occasionally so heavy, as was the case during last week’s exceptional downpours, it can overwhelm the system.”
The worst affected areas were Brook Way, Rainham, with around 50 residents affected, South Hall Drive, Rainham, with around 15 affected and Lambs Lane South with road closures ongoing in these areas.
The A1306 was also severely flooded, work is ongoing to clear the silt from the road to make it safe for traffic.
Those affected are encouraged to contact charity SMILE London and Essex who have started an appeal helping flood victims.