Burst water main in north London causes anger amid drought crisis

Thames Water is facing criticism and anger from customers after one of its water mains burst, causing street flooding at the height of a drought crisis.

The burst 91cm (36in) water main prompted many road closures around Hornsey Road, north London, as video of the incident showed streets submerged in more than a metre of water.

About 50 properties were damaged, four people were rescued, a sports centre was closed because of flooding and thousands of households were left without water.

The emergency services were called to the scene in the borough of Islington at just after 7am, the London fire brigade said.

Eight fire engines and about 60 firefighters were deployed to the scene on Hornsey Road.

A fire brigade spokesperson said: “Flood water is affecting Hornsey Road and Tollington Road.

“There are multiple road closures in place while crews work to make the scene safe. People are urged to avoid the area.”

A church in the area opened its doors to anyone affected by the flood. Liz Clutterbuck, the vicar of Emmanuel church, promised “jugs of water (for now!) and plenty of biscuits”.

Just before noon she tweeted that water levels had subsided, leaving many homes damaged.

Earlier she said: “The flood stretches all the way to Arthur Road. The houses between Arthur Road and Tollington Way have water above the bottom of their front doors.

“The Sobell [leisure centre] is flooded by several feet – could see it at least two feet high on the external exits in the car park. Water still seemed to be flowing fast an hour ago.

“They’re still working out how to evacuate those houses with water up to their doors.”

The flood comes as ministers have urged more water companies to impose hosepipe bans after the driest eight-month spell since 1976. Meanwhile, forecasters are predicting another heatwave with no sign of rain in many parts of UK.

The former Undertones frontman, Feargal Sharkey, who now campaigns on river and water issues, said the flood was the result of a lack of investment by Thames Water.

Retweeting images of the flood he wrote: “Now you know what decades of underinvestment looks like. Hornsey Road, London, N7 at 8:30 this morning. Wouldn’t that be right @thameswater.”

The Liberal Democrat peer Sarah Ludford also criticised Thames Water’s for underinvestment.

Residents in six postal areas reported either no water or low pressure. Some expressed frustration about the lack of updates from Thames Water on when supplies would return.

The company apologised to customers and said it had stopped the flow of water.

In a statement it said: “We’ve been using temporary pumps to restore water pressure levels and most customers should be back in supply and have their water pressure returned to normal.

“We’ve also been proactively contacting everyone in the affected area who has pre-registered with us as having special requirements, such as being medically reliant on water, so we can make sure we give them the help and support they need.”

A member of staff at the Tollington Arms, in Hornsey Road, said: “It happened about 7am and within minutes there was flooding like a tsunami.

“The fire service were down very quickly and we hope along with Thames Water, they can get things back to normal as quickly as possible.

“It happened when the pub was shut but as we get through the morning, it may impact us but fingers crossed it gets sorted. We have got one eye on our cellar as that would get hit first. Let’s hope for a positive outcome.”

Last week, Thames Water, England’s largest water company, warned it might soon impose a hosepipe ban. Last month it was estimated that the company was leaking 605m litres of water a day, based on a three-year average.

Monday’s incident is the latest in a series of floods in the area caused by water leaks, including two separate floods in December 2016 in Islington’s Upper Street and nearby Stoke Newington.