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Walthamstow residents badly hit by Sunday’s flooding say some homes were filled to knee-height or higher with water.
Water began flooding into people’s homes on Brooke Road, near Wood Street Station, at around 4.30pm and quickly filled their ground floors.
Many residents had their cabinets filled with water and their electronics submerged, while some homes lost power completely, forcing people to relocate for the night.
Those who tried contacting Waltham Forest Council’s helpline say it was impossible to get through – but the London Fire Brigade eventually arrived to help around six hours later, at 11pm.
While some residents suspected Thames Water may have failed to maintain a nearby storm water pumping station, a spokesperson for the company confirmed it had been checked and was working properly at the time of the flood.
Brooke Road resident Hirah Awan, who was home alone when the flood started, said it reached knee-height in her kitchen, which her father had just spent eight months redoing.
The water rose high enough to fill bowls in their cupboards and for heavy boxes of goods, weighing more than 16 kilograms, to start floating away.
She said: “The whole of yesterday we were trying to keep the water out, even calling the fire brigade, but what could anybody do?
“Someone is going to have to do something, the drainage needs to be fixed because, with the things happening with climate change, this is just going to happen more often.”
Her father, Umar Awan, said he had lived on the road since the mid-80s and had seen flooding like this three times before, in 1989, during the mid-90s and in 2016.
He said: “The fire brigade came about six hours later. If it was just our road affected, I would say they were slow but the whole area was affected.”
Ramatu Dainkeh, living nearby, lost power in her home, forcing her to take her children to a nearby hotel for the night.
She said: “It was like a river outside, I can’t believe it. Any time you opened the door, the water would rush in. Our car was covered by water and one car’s airbag went off.
“We could not get through to the council, I tried several times but I could not get through to anybody.
“My housing officer said they would contact me back, we can’t stay here, the smell is so bad right now.”
At the other, higher end of the road, near Barrett Road, residents were slightly better off, with flood water only rising to the level of their skirting boards.
Sue Moore and Dennis Brown said: “The water came through the air vents and flooded the whole ground floor. We saw it happening and took all the electrical things we could carry upstairs.
“The fire brigade came round last night to speak to us and check if we were okay, they were knocking on everyone’s doors. [Ward councillor] Vicky Te Velde was around talking to people today.
“The council have been round this morning to clean the drain gullies. They used to do that once a year many years ago but now they don’t do it until it’s too late.”
Ken Rickwood, whose house saw “two or three inches” of water, said he felt the council and fire brigade’s response was “very quick”.
He said: “This end never used to get flooded, although the other end did because Thames Water didn’t clear out the drains.
“The MP [Stella Creasy] was here quite quickly and the fire department got here around 10.30pm. They had been to so many different places and had about 300 calls.
“The phones were gone so I couldn’t ring the council myself but it would have been a waste of time, other people said you couldn’t get through anyway.”
In a statement on Monday, current council leader Clare Coghill said the council’s contact centre received more than 500 calls “on a day they would normally receive fewer than 100”.
She added: “The dedication of staff to drop everything on a Sunday afternoon to go to respond to the needs of residents is something that I know often goes unnoticed by many.
“I am proud to say that our emergency response teams worked through the night ensuring that everyone was looked after. 48 people had to be found emergency accommodation by our housing team.
“Meanwhile, our highways officers attended 22 blocked roads ensuring they were safe and helping to get them cleared. They were back at it again first thing this morning.
“Then there are the clean-up crews, who have been taking away the small mountain of debris deposited by the waters across the borough.
“It is also noteworthy that in 2010 we had 4,000 staff and the head count today is around 2,800. A sign of the funding cuts local authorities have and continue to face.
“But let me assure you that we, as your council, will continue to work with our colleagues in the other emergency services to get everyone back in their homes safely.”
A spokesperson for Thames Water said: “We sympathise with everyone affected by yesterday’s torrential rain and flooding.
“We had extra staff on standby overnight and have offered support to the local authority emergency planning teams, who lead on surface flooding, but so far we’ve not been called upon as part of their response.
“We have crews out today checking our sewers for blockages, which can often form when debris is washed into the pipes following heavy rain and surface flooding, and remain in touch with all flood partners in case we’re needed.”
Residents reported flooding across other areas of Walthamstow, as well as Leytonstone, Whipps Cross Hospital and Chingford.