Heatwave ‘hell’ inside tower block with broken lifts

Thames Water says sorry

Thursday, 21st July — By Tom Foot

Chalcots tower

The Chalcots estate, where lifts broke down during the soaring temperatures

A PREGNANT woman had to walk up 40 flights of stairs to the top of a council tower block on one of the hottest days in history after both lifts failed and the water supply to the block was cut.

Her partner contacted the New Journal after a day of misery for tenants on the Chalcots estate which saw water shut off to dozens homes.

The Bray tower in Fellows Road was particularly badly affected by the water shortages that affected pressure and supply for homes in the NW3, NW6 and NW8 postcodes on Monday.

Barney Tan, who lives close to the top floor with his pregnant partner, said: “She’d only gone out to get some bottled water from the Nisa and when she came back the lifts weren’t working and she had to take the stairs.

“There are a lot of older people here, a lot of families with young children. Imagine being trapped in your home, especially in that heat? “People didn’t know what to do, because they couldn’t go up – but they didn’t want to be outside either. You wanted to get indoors away from the sun.”

He added: “There are a lot of elderly, disabled here – people with breathing problems. Lifts do breakdown, I understand that – it’s mechanical.

“But this whole thing could have been avoided if they had fixed the first lift when they were told about that one a few days before.”

Camden Council apologised and said both lifts’ motor rooms had failed and could not be fixed because of the “extreme heat” despite “best efforts”.

Thames Water has apologised after residents living in the Chalcots estate tower blocks and some of the surrounding streets were left without water on one of the hottest days in history.

The profit-making company said a broken pipe in Adelaide Road, near Burnham Tower, last Monday had not caused water pressure to go low or run dry completely in the Chalcots towers.

The problem was affecting homes in South Hampstead, Swiss Cottage, Belsize Park and St John’s Wood. Last year, Thames Water spent months digging up Adelaide Road as part of its “water mains renewal project”.

Several bus stops were closed for more than 16 weeks during the works that caused chaos.

But water could be seen gushing from a hole in the same street on Monday afternoon. The pipe burst again yesterday (Wednesday) with a sign saying: “We’ve had to leave the site … We’ll be back hard at work again soon.”

Bray tenant Simon Happily said on Monday his water was switched off at around 7.30pm until 9.30pm, adding: “It’s hell on the top floor with no insulation and rubbish windows. My air con packed up too.”

Rashid Iqbal, chief executive of the Winch Youth Club in Winchester Road, said he reported the water going off at around 4pm, and that drinking fountains in the Swiss Cottage open space were out of action in the afternoon.

Shops had run dry of bottled water in the early evening on Monday night.

Thames Water said its “specialist engineers” had investigated and did what they could to “get things up and running as quickly as possible”, adding: “We’re really sorry if this disrupted your day.”

Environment chief Cllr Adam Harrison said: “Unfortunately this is yet another reminder of how exposed we are as a society to climate emergency effects. We are strengthening our climate resilience support for communities, and today I know our emergency management team have been working to support vulnerable residents. As with sewer floods becoming more common, we can expect heat events like this week to become more common.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We’re very sorry to those people who had no water or lower pressure than normal near Adelaide Road. We sent our engineers to investigate the problem and they have reported that sufficient pressure has been resumed in the mains.

“We understand the issues at Chalcots Estate is an internal problem and not connected to the recent burst.”

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