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London churches count the cost of flooding after heavy rainfall

23 July 2021

ALAMY

Torrential rain in Highgate, north London, on 12 July

Torrential rain in Highgate, north London, on 12 July

LONDON churches are counting the cost of flooding that hit the city when almost three inches of rain fell in less than two hours on 12 July.

The heavy rain, which caused cars to be abandoned and streets and homes to be flooded across the capital, affected a number of churches.

The Revd Colin Amos, Vicar of St Augustine’s, Kilburn, a Victorian Gothic church known as “the cathedral of north London”, was bailing out water from his vestry as gallons more poured into the basement; the water level rose to four feet in just 90 minutes.

He singled out the local fire crew, who spent hours pumping water out of the church’s basement, for particular praise. “I cannot speak highly enough of them. After pumping out the flooded homes of parishioners who live in basement flats near by, they came to us at 8 p.m. I finally waved goodbye to them at 4.40 a.m. the next day.

“My focus is, of course, on my parishioners who have lost their homes, but we’ve certainly got a lot of work to do here. I actually felt the first raindrops falling around 3.15 in the afternoon; by 5.15,I was taking pictures of enormous pools forming in the churchyard. As water started coming into the church, I was bailing it out as fast as I could.

“I then looked in the basement and could smell gas; so called the supplier to have the gas turned off. A lot of the basement was fully submerged, including the organ blower, which is now ruined. We had three new boilers in the basement, too; the water rose above the controls of the boilers, and, as a result, they are ruined, too.”

Chloe Slinger, the director of operations at St Barnabas’s, Kensington, a Grade II listed 19th-century building with a substantial crypt, said that surveyors were still assessing the extent of the damage, days after the downpour.

She said: “The damage is all in our crypt rooms: we had 30cm of water down there. It has damaged the floor and the kitchen; we’re still waiting to find out if it has impacted the underfloor heating. We’ve got dehumidifiers down there at the moment, and we’re waiting for the surveyors to take a look at the heating.

“We feel blessed that, the Sunday before, we’d had the final children’s group for the summer, but we’ve a nursery due to start in there in September; so there’s only six weeks to get it finished, and we still don’t know the extent of the damage. Our prayer is that the underfloor heating is all right.

“We have a lot of community activities in the building: we have a large Iranian contingent locally, and run a night shelter; we also have a music school for members of the local community, but that meets in the crypt rooms, and, of course, that’s been disrupted.”

A spokesman for Ecclesiastical Insurance said that, while most calls about flooding received from churches related to relatively small-scale damage, they were already processing six claims for more than £100,000.

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