Camden recovers from flash floods which saw 'loose avocados flying'
Sam Volpe and Joseph Marshall
- Credit: @lunanana___
Like much of London, Camden is recovering after Monday night's flash floods saw homes and businesses deluged and stunning scenes of standing water in the borough's roads.
Areas from Swiss Cottage and West Hampstead to Bishop's Avenue were affected, as public transport ground to a halt and firefighters were called in to help shift water.
South End Green was badly hit, while families in Keats Grove were left with a sense of déjà vu after seeing the water pour in – two years after a burst water main caused similar issues.
In South End Green water damaged restaurant basements, flooded into the Overground station and even washed away fruit and vegetables from the stall there.
Lewis Jarvis, who works on the stall, said the water was up to his ankles.
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"When ambulances and fire engines came through they caused waves," he added. "There were some loose avocados flying about. It was a bit crazy. We had to throw some boxes away."
He said things were fine by Tuesday morning.
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Wasel Ali – of Paradise Hampstead restaurant in South End Road – said things were not as bad as feared.
He said: "When cars were driving by, it caused a wake and for the water to come through the gaps.
"Luckily I organised a cleaning crew and we were able to get the water out within about 45 minutes. There's a little bit of damage to the basement, but nothing too substantial.
"Really it's just been another hurdle for businesses. After the year we've had! But we didn't let Covid close us, and this hasn't either."
Wasel said Paradise was open as usual on Tuesday.
Down the road, Vilal Devouiche from Euphorium Bakery said one of his customers even had to make a dramatic exit from the rising water levels.
""A customer had to leave through the window to get to higher ground," he said.
Max Leach was in the area too. He told this newspaper it was "very bad, up to my knees in some parts".
He said the fruit and veg stand was "partially washed down the road" and "barriers were floating in the middle street", adding: ""It's like the fleet has resurfaced.
"The fruit and veg stand has been partially washed down the road which is blocking the gutters and barriers are floating in the middle of the street."
Another woman, whose mother-in-law was flooded out, said: "She lives on two levels. Her basement, which contains the bedrooms and bathrooms, flooded 40cm high all over. She is now living with her son and I."
A member of staff at Daunt Books said: "It came down the street. It went from not being a lot to barriers in place for social distancing overflowing. It was minor chaos."
Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage were affected. Images showed a number of gardens underwater in Goldhurst Terrace.
The Winch youth centre in Winchester Road was badly hit, with water causing damage to its lower levels.
Further north, Hampstead Tube station was among those forced to shut.
Tom Houston was cycling in the Bishop's Avenue – often known as Billionaire's Row – when the rain came.
He told this newspaper: "I was on my bike and just turned and there was water the whole way up the Bishop's Avenue. It was closed at both ends and just completely impassable."
The Hampstead Heath bathing ponds remain closed after the flooding, as the City of London Corporation continues the clean-up operation and conducts tests to ensure the water quality is appropriate.
Camden Council said its team had been "working flat out" to help affected residents and reported that more than 200 "emergency" jobs were raised with its building repair team on Monday evening.
Cllr Georgia Gould said: "Camden in common with many parts of London experienced extreme flash flooding on Monday night – this is when rain falls so fast that the underlying ground cannot cope, or drain it away fast enough.
“Our immediate focus has been on supporting residents affected by the flooding – some of whom faced really distressing situations. On the night, we helped provide a number of residents with temporary accommodation and our engineers worked closely with Thames Water to bring the flood levels down.
"Our housing repairs service responded to over 200 emergency jobs on the night – 20 times more than normal – to ensure residents’ homes were safe.
"On Wednesday morning, we began clearing up the sand and silt left behind by the floods – focussing on badly affected areas including South End Green and West End Lane.
"I want to thank all affected residents for patiently bearing with us and to all staff who helped with the effort. We remain standing by to help any of our residents affected by the flooding."
Cllr Gould said that Camden would be working with authorities across London to review the what happened and see what can be learned - particularly in light of the climate crisis making extreme weather events more likely.
The council has a webpage detailing the help available at news.camden.gov.uk/flooding-in-camden/
Thames Water (TW) said it received "almost five times the normal number of calls", while the London Fire Brigade reported receiving more than 1,000 calls across the city during the extreme rain.
A TW spokesperson added: "While our pipes are designed to cope with most storms, yesterday’s rainfall was so severe the system filled up very quickly."