13 Feb 2014

Abandoned in Surrey – how one flooded street is coping

“We’re all desperate. We’re all really, really scared”: in one flooded street in Egham, all 70 houses have been flooded, and residents are terrified of looting.

For the past two nights, Channel 4 News has broadcast from the heart of Thames Valley flood country, writes Mark Greaves. Jon Snow presented from Datchet on Wednesday night, which is still under water.

But a few miles away in Egham, just outside Staines, residents of one street are having to deal not only with the trauma of inundation and evacuation, but also what they clearly fear is the very real threat of looting.

“My lovely neighbours have had to be evacuated,” Elaine Morris, who has decided to stay put, told Channel 4 News. “We all know each other. We’re all desperate. We’re all really, really scared.”

Waist-high water

Ayebridges Avenue is a quiet cul-de-sac about a mile away from the Thames. It has been flooded since the start of the week and a severe weather warning has been in place for days. Some of its 70 houses were built before the great flood of 1947, others afterwards.

To mitigate the effects of any future floods, the post-1947 properties were built at a higher elevation than the earlier buildings. As a result, residents of the post-1947 homes, although surrounded by water, have been spared the need to evacuate.

More from Channel 4 News: UK floods - special report

But people living in the older houses – of which there are many – had to leave them several days ago. The water in some places is at least waist-high.

It means those who have stayed behind are having to watch their own homes and at the same time keep an eye on the uninhabited properties of their neighbours.

‘I want the army’

Ms Morris said: “I rang the council saying I was very worried and felt very vulnerable for me and for the properties that were empty. They told me to ring 101 and the police.

“So I dialled and paid 101, hung on for 30 minutes, to be told: ‘Ring Runnymede council’. So I rang Runnymede council and again was told (it was) not their problem to get the army in to protect us. Ring the police.

Amid the official confusion, Elaine’s view is that it is the army’s responsibility to ensure the safety of her road.

“During the night hours I want the army at the top of the road to protect our property,” she says.

Last night at around 11.30pm I wandered down Ayebridges Avenue, and can confirm that there appeared to be nobody in any sort of official capacity watching over it.

That needs to change before the next bout of heavy rain, predicted for Friday.

Reporter Paraic O’Brien will have the latest from Ayebridges Avenue on Thursday night – on Channel 4 News at 7pm