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Flood ravaged South Hampstead residents face New Year of uncertainty

PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 January 2012

A fire broke out on the third floor of Casterbridge House and the sixth floor was then flooded. Picture: Polly Hancock

A fire broke out on the third floor of Casterbridge House and the sixth floor was then flooded. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

Flood ravaged South Hampstead tenants face the New Year uncertain if they will be able to claim thousands of pounds in insurance - a month after their life’s belongings were washed away.

Distraught residents in Casterbridge House were forced to spend Christmas in flats sodden under several inches of dirty water after a leak believed to have been caused by copper thieves ran through the sixth floor.

Anne Deli and partner John Harkin watched in horror as an irreplaceable box of family photographs and letters were washed away at their Abbey Road flat.

Standing on blankets laid down to soak up the water, Ms Deli said: “There were gallons of water everywhere. It was really devastating, especially when I had to watch my Christmas presents floating in the bedroom. I didn’t even get to put the labels on them. All our presents were just floating around the tree.

“But the worst part was seeing a box of irreplaceable letters ruined in the stinking water.”

It is thought that the flood, which cascaded down lift shafts and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage, started after a valve fitted to the emergency water mains was stolen for its copper content.

When firefighters were called to a blaze on the third floor on December 2, water poured out of the valve three floors above – immersing several households in water.

Despite the destruction, 53-year-old Ms Deli said she was moved by the “Blitz spirit” her neighbours showed. They have regularly checked up on her and leant a hand cleaning up.

“Everyone on the floor pulled together and helped each other,” she said. “It just shows how people come together when things are bad.”

Mr Harkin, an electrician who lost all his tools in the flood, was forced to borrow money from his brother to pay for new carpets and cancel his usual family Christmas dinner.

He said: “I’ve never seen water like it indoors. It was flooding down the lift shafts and stairs.”

Gary Collings, 54, a neighbour whose flat was also damaged, said: “It was devastating. We had to put new carpets down because ours were ruined and we had people staying with us over Christmas and couldn’t have them sleeping on the concrete floor.

‘‘It cost hundreds of pounds, which is a lot at Christmas.”

A spokeswoman for Camden Council, which runs Casterbridge, said insurance claims are being processed in the normal way and that each will be judged on its merit.

She also urged residents to report any metal thefts to the authority on 020 7974 4444.

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