Hornsey Road flood: burst pipe in Islington causes chaos in north London

Thames Water says six postcodes in the capital are affected as families and businesses lose supply of running water

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A large area of north London had little or no water on Monday morning as a burst pipe near Arsenal's Emirates Stadium saw water gush through the streets, at the same time as millions of people in the UK face hosepipe bans due to water scarcity.

Six postcodes in the boroughs of Islington and Hackney had no or very low water supply, the area's supplier Thames Water said on its webpage.

Eight fire engines and about 60 firefighters were called to the scene at Hornsey Road and Tollington Road in Islington at just after 7am, London Fire Brigade said.

“There are multiple road closures in place while crews work to make the scene safe. People are urged to avoid the area.

“The Brigade's 999 control officers have taken 12 calls to the incident.”

Businesses of varying sizes were affected.

Arsenal's club's offices were without water following the leak, and a pub on Tollington Road said it was worried about its supplies.

“It happened about 7am and within minutes there was flooding like a tsunami!”, said a staff member at The Tollington pub, which is located close to the burst pipe. “We have got one eye on our cellar as that would get hit first.”

Many parts of the UK are living with hosepipe bans, and more areas including London are expected to be affected soon.

Temperatures in Britain are expected to soar again this week to highs around 35°C, with millions of households not allowed to water their gardens.

The UK’s major utilities are already facing criticism for the amount of water that leaks out of pipes. About 2.4 billion litres are lost through leaks every day, the Times newspaper reported last month, enough to meet the needs of nearly 16 million people, roughly a quarter of the UK population.

Outside the capital, Southern Water enforced the first hosepipe ban in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. If residents want to irrigate their gardens, they need to use conservative methods such as watering cans or potentially face a fine of up to £1,000 ($1,206). South East Water will impose a similar ban on its customers in Kent and Sussex from August 12.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is urging people not to light barbecues or bonfires, or let off fireworks or sky lanterns, after a large fire which damaged gardens, sheds and trees was started by a chiminea.

Area manager Neil Fenwick said: “While summer weather usually provides the perfect opportunity to host a barbecue or gather around a chiminea in the evening, we're strongly discouraging people from having any kinds of fires at the moment.

“The ground across Essex is extremely dry, allowing fires to spread easily and quickly. This is true for gardens as well as fields and heathland.

“Please help us to help you. Please don't have barbecues or bonfires. Please don't use fireworks or set off sky lanterns.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 farmers and landowners in England and Wales, has called on all retailers to follow the lead of Marks & Spencer and ban the sale of disposable barbecues across the UK this summer.

The organisation's president, Mark Tufnell, said: “The CLA is demanding that retailers immediately ban the sale of disposable barbecues across the UK this summer in a move to curb fires spreading in the countryside which cause great damage to rural communities and businesses and jeopardise the safety of all those in the surrounding areas.

“During this period of prolonged lack of rainfall, record temperatures during heatwaves and wildfires damaging the countryside, policies such as this which can mitigate potential further fire damage are sensible and necessary.

“We warmly welcome people to the countryside as they seek to enjoy the glorious weather.

“But we ask them to help us protect farmland and natural habitats by not lighting barbecues, fires and other potentially hazardous materials such as sky lanterns.”

UK drought — in pictures

Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said: “We're expecting the heat to build towards the end of the week, and expecting temperatures of 34°C or 35°C across parts of southern England.

“After that the heatwave will start to subside.”

He said the heat would be slipping away eastward by the end of this week, bringing fresher conditions.

But it was not yet clear from the forecasts whether there would be any “meaningful” rain to relieve dry areas next week, he said.

In England, July was the driest July since 1935, with average precipitation at just 23.1mm, while south-east and central southern England had an average of only 5mm of rain and East Anglia had 5.4mm, provisional figures from the UK's Met Office show.

Some of Britain's reservoirs and rivers have been running perilously low as a result.

But rain in north-west Britain in the last week or so has meant river flows are in the normal range or above normal, or even exceptionally high in the case of Cumbria.

Lucy Barker, a hydrological analyst at UKCEH, said: “Current forecasts suggest that dry and warm weather will continue for southern Britain through the first half of August, and hydrological forecasts suggest below normal river flows in southern Britain are likely to persist over the next few months, with exceptionally low flows likely in many catchments.

“Groundwater levels and reservoir stocks are likely to continue to decline in these areas.

“We would expect to see continued impacts on agriculture and the environment in addition to further pressures on water supplies, with the possibility of further restrictions.”

Updated: August 08, 2022, 2:17 PM
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