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Finsbury Park flood victims vent their fury at Thames Water

Water company bosses face heated meeting after burst main left up to 150 homes damaged last month

08 November, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Suna Gorken’s daughter amid the family’s belongings

THAMES Water bosses were shamed in a heated meeting with victims of the Finsbury Park flooding as families accused the utility company of not caring about their welfare.

Scores of furious residents packed into a community centre on Tuesday night to vent their fury at the “disgusting” treatment they have received since a burst main flooded the Finsbury Park area on an “unprecedented” scale last month.

Up to 150 homes were damaged by the flooding with about 70 households having to move.

More than a dozen residents said they are still hopping from one hotel or temporary accommodation to the next with Thames Water officials allegedly refusing to pay prices that have been hiked up by landlords and hotel owners keen to capitalise on the disaster.

Residents at the meeting on Tuesday night

Single mother Suna Gorken, whose children attend Ambler Primary School in Blackstock Road, has had to move five times in the past four weeks from Enfield, to Hoxton and she is now in Old Street.

She has sent links for several possible flats to Thames Water contractors, but all have been deemed too expensive.

She said: “For four weeks we keep moving and it is too much. My daughter now has an eye infection and we are not sleeping. I feel like crying every day.”

Residents are having to inventory all the items that have been destroyed and Thames Water will negotiate a compensation package for that.

The utility company, which has a monopoly on the water supply across London and the Thames Valley area, has also offered a flat £5,000 payment to all households for their distress and inconvenience.

But this figure caused uproar at the meeting in the Vince Murraine Community Centre.

Tanja Schnitzer, who lives with three others in her basement flat, brought out a cardboard cutout with images from her destroyed home stuck on it at the meeting.

She said: “Receiving £1,250 each is not good enough. It’s disgusting. When we have lost everything, £1,250 as a sorry is nothing.”

Thames Water’s top three executives received almost £2.5m in salary and bonuses last year.

Cat Drummond and Francesca Bailey have been told they have to move out for at least six months while their basement flat in Queen’s Drive is recovered.

Speaking at the meeting, Ms Drummond said: “I do not accept the argument that there is no accommodation out there.

“The point is, if you spent enough money you could get somewhere for these people to live. You don’t care about how stressful it is for us or how sickening it is to watch your home destroyed.

“In the same way, it is cheaper for you to let these bursts happen than it is to actually fix the system in the first place and that is not right.”

The 36-inch pipe burst on October 8 and about 1,000 litres of water poured through a gaping hole in the pavement every second, quickly turning roads into rivers and grassy areas into swamps.

As the Tribune reported at the time, water was cut from thousands of homes in Islington and Jeremy Corbyn hauled Thames Water bosses into his office to grill them on the latest burst main to disrupt the borough.

A broken pipe flooded about 100 homes in the Angel in 2016 while another pipe burst in Caledonian Road in October last year.

Kelly Macfarlane, Thames Water’s customer experience director, said: “I can only imagine the distress this has caused and we’re so very sorry to everyone who has been impacted. We’re doing everything we can to get people’s lives back to normal as quickly as possible. However, this was a major incident and the scale of the challenge to re-home so many people in the local area is unprecedented for us.

Flooding in Finsbury Park

“We took the unusual step of appointing two alternative accommodation providers to make sure everyone whose home was uninhabitable was put up in a hotel room.

“We’ve now found most people suitable rented accommodation but a small number remain in a hotel while we find properties which meet their needs. I do appreciate this is frustrating but we’re doing everything we reasonably can to support our customers on a case by case basis.

“The £5,000 payment is a discretionary gesture from Thames Water to recognise the distress and inconvenience for families and individuals most severely impacted.  It is in addition to any claim and payment due for damage to property and belongings. It is simply our way of saying sorry to our customers.”

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