Thousands without water and 100 properties flooded as mains burst during big freeze

Dozens of residents have been evacuated from their homes on Belsize Road in Camden

Edd Dracott
Saturday 17 December 2022 18:33 GMT
Burst water main floods London street

Dozens of residents have been evacuated after a burst water main flooded a London street and left thousands without water.

London Fire Brigade said eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters were called to Belsize Road in Camden at 2.50am on Saturday after a 42-inch water main burst causing flooding to a depth of half a metre across a length of road measuring around 800 metres.

The fire service said that the main had been isolated on Saturday afternoon, but a further 15-inch water main had also burst and around 100 properties were affected by floodwater.

Emergency services rescue resident Stefano Calcagni and his dogs Batista and Pandora in Camden, north London
Emergency services rescue resident Stefano Calcagni and his dogs Batista and Pandora in Camden, north London (PA)
Around 100 properties have been affected by the flood
Around 100 properties have been affected by the flood (PA)

The fire brigade said multiple homes had been flooded, while firefighters had to lead around 25 residents to safety.

Footage shared on social media shows emergency services using small boats and helping residents wrapped in blankets to safety.

Stefano Calcagni, from Hammersmith, was dogsitting for a friend in a first- and second-floor property on Belsize Road when he woke to a text telling him about the floods on Saturday morning.

The 48-year-old banker was evacuated by boat alongside the two hounds, named Batista and Pandora, on Saturday afternoon, after watching his neighbours in the basement flat below escape via their window.

“I opened the curtains, I saw there was water downstairs,” Mr Calcagni, who is originally from Milan, told reporters.

“The water level was halfway up the door to the basement flat. It’s owned by a couple. I saw them leave through the window as they couldn’t get out the door.

“I’ve spoken to my friend and told him about everything. He’s back tomorrow but knows it’s not as bad as for the basement flat – one week before Christmas.”

Belsize Road in Camden after a burst water main flooded the London street
Belsize Road in Camden after a burst water main flooded the London street (PA Wire)

Mr Calcagni said the water had come up the outside steps to his friend’s home and not inside, but he had decided to evacuate to stay with another friend as there was no central heating, no hot water and little food in the house.

“[Being on the boat] was surreal, there were things floating everywhere... the dogs got excited on the little boat but they’re fine,” Mr Calcagni added.

Station commander Gary Deacon said from the scene: “This is a significant flooding that has affected around 100 properties and left thousands without water.

“Shift water-rescue crews used boats to move around 20 people to upper floors of properties. Three adults and a child were evacuated to a place of safe haven. A number of residents have decided to remain in their properties and we’re patrolling the affected area to assist any further people who require assistance.

“The water authority are working to isolate the burst water main and firefighters are expected to remain at the scene throughout the afternoon. A rest centre has been set up for affected residents at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre.”

One resident said it “looked like the River Thames”
One resident said it “looked like the River Thames” (PA)

Cody Dolcy-Grant lives in Hilgrove Road, at the end of Belsize Road, and said she woke up to what looked like “the River Thames” outside her home.

“I wasn’t aware of the situation till 7am when I went to the toilet, realised the toilet wasn’t flushing and no water was coming out of the taps,” the 27-year-old, who is unemployed because of a health condition, told reporters.

“My road was flooded... when I opened the front door it was like a horror scene, fire engines up my whole road, police, ambulance, and then I looked to my left and it was like the River Thames outside.”

Ms Dolcy-Grant lives on the second floor of her building, so her home was not flooded, but at noon on Saturday she said she still had no running water, all the shops were closed, and transport had been halted on her street.

Thames Water said local houses in northwest London, in postcodes NW2, NW6, NW8 and NW10, could be experiencing no or low water pressure as a result of the burst main.

The company said in a statement: “We’re sorry to customers in NW6 and the wider area who have no water or lower pressure than normal today due to a burst pipe on Belsize Road. Loss adjusters are in the area to assess the damage and support residents in getting their lives back to normal once the water has receded.”

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