Chaos ensues after torrential rain leads to flash flooding
Nick Beazley with signs on his bins warning about the raw sewage. Picture: Tara O'Connor
July 14, 2021
Raw sewage flooded the streets of Raynes Park this Monday, (12 July) after torrential rain hit the capital.
Emergency services were called after cars became stuck in rising water under the railway bridge.
And water swept into shops in Coombe Lane, the area’s high street. This Tuesday (13 July) many were still closed after the flooding caused a power cut.
Stephen Watson, who runs a dry cleaners on the road, had just finished cleaning up the floor and was opening up late, around 11am.
Stephen Watson runs a dry cleaners in Coombe Lane. Picture: Tara O'Connor.
The water came all the way through his shop – more than he has experienced in the past, he said.
He said: “We get it every time there is a heavy downpour but this is the worst I’ve seen it.
“It is just superficial for us we’ve been able to clean up. If they actually cleaned the drains properly we wouldn’t get this sort of problem, even when it is not very bad elsewhere it is bad here.”
Shops in Coombe Lane were flooded on July 12. Picture: Tara O'Connor
A convenience shop owner a few doors down who didn’t want to give his name was assessing the damage – he said the water smelt so bad he was convinced it was sewage.
The businessman added, “A lot of our stock has been damaged, the water was smelly. When I went home I could still smell it after I showered.”
Owner of Lime and Thyme restaurant, Ugur Harani, said he lost out on up to £1,500 of trade after having to close early last night and not being able to open this morning due to the power cut.
He said, “It happens once or twice a year, I think this time was worse.
“First we get the floods then we get the power cut, last night we couldn’t stop the water coming in, it was hopeless. As soon as the rain stopped the water receded, I used a wet vacuum to suck the rest of the water out.
“I think they can open more drainage, some of them are blocked, or build a raised bit on the pavement or put a barrier so the water stays on the road.”
It wasn’t just the high street that was affected by flooding – residents in Abbott Avenue and Lower Downs Road about half a mile away were cleaning up this morning.
Nick Beazley had just finished cleaning and disinfecting his driveway but the smell of sludge left from the flood was still there.
He has lived in Abbott Avenue for five years and has witnessed flooding each year.
Pointing to a manhole across the road from his house, Nick said, “This is a sewage outlet and that’s where it comes from. There is often sanitary towels and baby wipes so it is clear that it’s sewage.
“Thames Water say their infrastructure is good for everything but a 30-year storm, but it’s happened every year since I’ve lived here. They have got to upgrade the sewage infrastructure.
“My car was parked in the driveway and the water nearly went into the exhaust pipe.”
A few doors down was Melina Matuck-Wilson who had just moved in two weeks ago who was shocked to see the water flood half of the front garden.
“We were very surprised because the report we received just said there was a low risk of flooding,” the 36-year-old said.
“We spoke with neighbours who said this has happened before.
“I think it was sewage, it was stinky, there were children coming back from school walking through that horrible water.
“It is quite disturbing, especially if you have young children around all this dirt and the smell. I was expecting someone to at least come and clean the road for us.”
Fellow Abbott Avenue resident David Gaunt said storage he uses under his house has was flooded – 2018 was the last time this happened to him.
Since then his building insurance doesn’t protect against flood damage.
The 72-year-old said: “It would probably be an issue when coming to sell because you can’t hide these facts.
“I don’t think there’s anyone from Thames Water or the council that understands the problem.”
David Gaunt has seen flooding in Abbotts Avenue before. Picture: Tara O'Connor
Conservative councillor for the Dundonald ward David Dean accused Merton Council and Thames Water of not taking responsibility for the problem.
He said: “It is totally unacceptable that they blame each other and blame nature, what they really should be doing is solving the problem.”
Thames Water received 2,522 calls from residents across London Monday evening.
A spokesperson said, “Between 5pm and 10pm on Monday we received almost five times the normal number of calls from our customers. Where flooding was impacting our sewer network, our engineers responded as quickly as they could, but while our pipes are designed to cope with most storms, yesterday’s rainfall was so severe the system filled up very quickly.
“In the majority of places the water drained away once the flash storm had passed.”
Merton Council advised residents impacted by flooding to report it online.
A spokesperson for the council said, “Heavy rain in the west of the borough caused flooding in Raynes Park and surrounding areas. Our gully crews and staff worked into the night to attend affected locations and to ensure Thames Water dealt with it swiftly.
“We have met Thames Water this morning to call on them to work with us and residents to address flooding from their sewers and other systems.”
Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter