Homes evacuated after burst main floods Essex town

Thirteen people were rescued from their homes by police boats when a burst water main flooded an Essex street.

About 100 homes were evacuated after water began gushing from a drain in East Bridge Road, South Woodham Ferrers.

Flood waters reached about 30in (72cm) before engineers located and repaired a ruptured pipe.

Residents in East Bridge Road had called police at 06:30 GMT to report that water was gushing from a drain.

A reception area was set up for people who had been forced out of homes but they will be allowed back when the flood waters have receded.

"Most residents were initially asked to move upstairs where it was safe to do so," a police spokesman said.

"A total of 13 people were immediately evacuated and were assisted from their homes by members of the Essex Police marine unit and other officers.

"Fifty homes were flooded but there were no casualties. A number of police officers are still at the scene helping residents with mopping up operations now the water has been turned off."

Second burst main

Police, fire and ambulance officers have checked all flooded properties to ensure the residents are safe.

Ch Insp Nic Lee said: "Residents were very shocked and surprised, but we had a large number of police officers there quickly to alert anybody who wasn't aware and move them all to the safety of the upper floors of their house as soon as possible.

"It's a large, wide road. A flood to the depth of about two-and-a-half feet (70cm) was a significant amount of water coming down the road."

Peter Blackman, a local resident and NHS community first responder co-ordinator for the town, said it looked like the water came from a burst water main behind some houses.

He said: "A lot of people are quite upset because we've got a lot of water around.

"Everybody is here to do the necessary, it's just a case of trying to sort out what's happening and trying to stem the flood. It looks like a mini river."

He estimated the police had about 10 vehicles on site and the fire and rescue service had a further four.

The flood waters are now slowly dispersing.

Brittle pipes

Brian Olley, from Essex and Suffolk Water, said: "It's a 28-inch (67cm) main, which is very large, that actually supplies the Southend-on-Sea area.

"The main goes through South Woodham Ferrers, through Hullbridge and on to Southend.

Image caption After the flood dispersed teams came in to clear up the area

"We have shut the main down and the area is starting to drain, but unfortunately a number of properties have mud and silt in them.

"So we've got our specialist teams on the way to help start the clean-up operation.

"Meanwhile, we've had no water in the Hullbridge area and the water supply is in the process being restored."

Water supplies to Southend are being diverted from other areas and three other mains feeding that area.

"It's a cast iron main and they can sometimes be more brittle in very cold weather. So it may well be the effect of the weather," Mr Olley said.

"The water main was laid in 1930, but has never had a burst before. I don't know how much water was lost, but I think we're talking several million litres, so a significant amount."

Riverside Primary School in Hullbridge, about two miles from South Woodham Ferrers and the other side of the River Crouch, is also closed because of a burst water main there.

Residents in that area are being advised to run their taps when supplied are restored as air may have been trapped in the system.

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