CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

‘War of attrition’ as half of flood victims await payouts

Shocking figure revealed during tense meeting between Thames Water and those affected by last December's ‘Angel tsunami’

06 October, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Councillor Martin Klute, second right, with, from left, flooding victims Robert Clark, Aimee-Jane Lee, Marianne Clark, Jo Willett, Stuart Rock and Fiona Green. ‘We have been told the maximum we would be given is £1,500, which is quite insulting,’ said Ms Lee

ONLY half the victims of a devastating flood in Angel have received insurance payouts 10 months after the deluge devastated Islington’s antiques quarter and dozens of homes.

The shocking figure was revealed during a tense meeting on Wednesday night between Thames Water and those affected by the December floods.

Dubbed the “Angel tsunami” by one resident, water from a burst mains in Upper Street swamped Camden Passage, Charlton Place and Colebroke Row before flooding gardens and destroying basements in Devonia Road.

More than 40 residents and business owners crowded into a small room at the Hilton Hotel in Angel for what Thames Water said would be the final meeting between the privately-owned company and those affected by the flooding.

The mood quickly soured when residents were shown a slide by Sarah McMath, a managing director at Thames Water, which revealed that out of 137 insurance claims filed after the flood, 64 had yet to be settled.

One home-owner, Richard Brown, told the meeting that he only received an insurance payout after being a “very, very difficult man” and some of his neighbours had yet to receive their money.

“We moved out of our house for seven months. The whole thing has been absolutely awful,” he said.

“It’s become very clear to me that over the past week or so that there has been what I think to be unfair and unequal treatment of different claims. You [Thames Water] must do the right thing quickly and with good grace.”

Water gushes out of the burst mains last December

The slide also revealed that the company has set aside an outstanding reserve of just under £10m in insurance payments to pay flood victims, who described the figure as “upsetting” for being too low.

They have called for more compensation from the company, outside of insurance payouts, to take into account lost business and destroyed items which have no worth other than sentimental value.

“We have been told that the maximum we would be given is £1,500, which given the hours it has taken for us to deal with the flood individually is quite insulting,” said home-owner Aimee-Jane Lee. Others said they had worked six days a week for 10 months to rebuild homes and businesses.

During the meeting, antiques shop owners said they had received less than £50 in compensation for lost business as part of a “goodwill” gesture while some residents received £1,000.

“I got a cheque for £49 and I was closed for over six months,” said gallery owner James Freeman. “At the end of the day we are generally small businesses around here. Why on earth are the rest of us getting excluded? A person from Thames Water asked me: ‘Why don’t you sell something else?’”

Angel residents were joined by Giles Gibson, a member of a community group in South London’s Herne Hill – an area which suffered a devastating flood four years ago from a burst main managed by Thames Water.

“Do not think this is going to be a quick battle,” warned Mr Gibson. “This is a long-drawn-out war of attrition you have to fight.

“Fifteen per cent of the traders never survived and they went through the exact same as I have been hearing this evening.”

A group of residents, headed by Jo Willett, from Devonia Road, formed an action group in April to hold the water firm to account.

Thames Water’s Ms McMath said she would “take away” the issues raised at the meeting and send her response to the action group.

She said the firm was on course to complete the mains repair work in Upper Street next month. Across the country £97million will be spent in the next two-and-a-half years on improving mains pipes, she added.

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