Water company apologises for phone line waits as flood response branded 'woefully inadequate'
- Credit: Jonathan King
Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal has hit out at Thames Water's response to last weekend's floods, branding it "woefully inadequate".
The stinging criticism came during a residents' forum for the west of the borough, held on Wednesday (July 28).
During the online event, Cllr Athwal discussed the flash flooding that hit parts of Redbridge last Sunday (July 25).
Around a month's worth of rain fell in three hours, he said, causing disruption on road and rail across east London.
Cllr Athwal said 200 to 300 homes near the bottom end of Clayhall Avenue were flooded, with Peel Place, Vienna Close and Coburg Gardens the worst affected roads.
He reserved criticism for Thames Water and the Environment Agency for their response.
However, the water company said it is continuing to help clear devastation and sympathises with people affected, while the Environment Agency said it has been working with the council to manage sources of flood risk.
Cllr Athwal said he told a pan-London round table meeting, including mayor of London Sadiq Khan, that his residents "deserved better".
"Thames Water was woefully inadequate. Nobody could answer their phones there. The Environment Agency, which looks after far worse flooding than we had on Sunday night, you could wait an hour and some residents did and they didn't answer.
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"It's unacceptable that Thames Water or the Environment Agency haven't got the capacity to pick up the phone."
He also called on the water company to come and clean up people's gardens where they were filled with sewage.
Cllr Athwal also believed Thames Water should have pumped the sewers and drains out.
"Residents needed reassurance and they didn't get it at that time of need."
A Thames Water spokesperson said it sympathises with everyone affected by the flooding.
“Having floodwater in your home or garden, or in the street outside, is really distressing and we continue to visit customers across London to help them get their lives back to normal," they said.
“We had extra staff on standby during the event on Sunday and have offered support to the London borough emergency planning teams, who lead on surface flooding."
The spokesperson apologised if anyone had to wait a long time to speak to someone, adding that its call centre is "exceptionally busy".
They added: “We’ve been cleaning roads, pavements and properties since Sunday and we’re trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible.
"Due to the scale of the flooding, this is taking a little longer than normal in some cases.
“We share flood risk responsibilities with a range of organisations across London, including councils, highways authorities and the Environment Agency, and we look forward to continuing working with them on viable and sustainable solutions to combat two of the main causes of flooding – climate change and population growth.”
The Environment Agency said it has been working with the council to manage sources of flood risk in the borough, including in Clayhall, Seven Kings and The River Roding Project.
A spokesperson said: "Our thoughts are with those affected by surface water flooding from the recent severe downpours in London.
"We welcome the mayor’s recent initiative bringing together the partners who have a role in reducing flood risk.
"We’ll continue to work together to respond to the increasing threat of flooding in London.
“While local authorities lead the management and response to flooding from surface water, Environment Agency teams support them with advice, data and help on the ground where possible."
Redbridge Council opened a rest centre at Sir James Hawkey Hall in Woodford Green, but Cllr Athwal said no-one took up its offer.
The council leader, who said he had never seen such flooding in his 51 years living in Redbridge, revealed that the authority is pushing the government for clean-up funds.
He also said the local authority is looking at "flood alleviation" measures it can carry out around the bottom of Clayhall Avenue and is in discussions with the Environment Agency and Mr Khan.
"With the help of government, hopefully we're going to announce that we will put something through but of course all this is going to cost and it's not going to happen immediately.
"What we're saying is, we don't want it to be years, we'd rather it was months."
Jonathan King, whose mother lives in the road, told this paper that insurers said there was more than £40,000 worth of damage to the home.