Flash flood: are we ready for a repeat?

Fears another ‘major incident’ could see emergency services flat-footed

Friday, 10th June — By Tom Foot

Review flood july 2021 shirland road

Last year’s flooding in Maida Vale

FIREFIGHTERS declared a “major incident” after fielding more than 1,700 calls during two days of flooding chaos, new information from the London Fire Brigade reveals.

Emergency measures were put in place due to the sheer volume of pleas for help, mainly from residents in north Westminster around Maida Vale where homes and shops were destroyed on July 12 and 13 last year.

They did not receive any forewarning from authorities about the intense rainfall, which smashed records going back decades.

There are concerns that similar flooding could happen again in the coming weeks and that emergency services could be caught flat-footed again.

The LFB, in a response to a request for information by former London Assembly member Murad Qureshi, said: “This particular area of London experienced flash floods over a very short time period. No prior warning was given by any partner agency. Due to the very high number of calls received, LFB declared a major incident.”

Many residents whose homes were flooded last year reported how the water came up to waste level, before suddenly draining away in what has been described as a “plug-hole event”.

The LFB response also discloses how it is not standard practice for firefighters to lift up manhole covers in the event of a flood.

It said: “We believe that no actions undertaken by LFB would have had an impact to reduce the levels so quickly. The likelihood is that Thames Water could have potentially diverted sewer systems, hence the rapid dispersal in the time frame.”

The Extra reported earlier this year how the focus of an inquiry into the flooding is due to focus on whether gates in Lots Road pumping station, Chelsea, could have been used to avert the disaster.

Mr Qureshi said he had wanted to find out more from the LFB after feeling that Westminster Council’s scrutiny committee, which investigated the flooding, had not “asked them much at all”.

Last year, residents and businesses were hit by a second downpour less than a fortnight later. On July 26, the LFB said it received 1,312 total calls about flooding. An inquiry, commissioned by but independent from Thames Water, is ongoing with a report expected to be published in the autumn.

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