Published: 06:00, 27 August 2021
| Updated: 15:14, 27 August 2021
A couple have lost everything after their flat was flooded with water from their toilet, plugholes and nearby drains as the sewer network was overwhelmed by “once-in-50-year rainfall”.
Tony King and Frances Spanner woke up to find their basement apartment in Central Parade, Herne Bay, submerged.
And just when water appeared to be finally seeping out of their flat, more murky liquid gushed in from the overflowing drains outside.
Mr King, 34, told KentOnline: “There was a plop, plop, plop sound and all the water came up the drains and flooded into the flat.
“At that point, we were thinking ‘we’re going to lose everything here’.
“We were using cat litter, towels, bedsheets, everything to try to absorb it. But it got to a stage where we thought we had to get out.
“It was coming from the inside as well eventually. The toilets were backing up and water was coming up through the shower, so you know it was sewage. It stunk. It was disgusting.”
Southern Water says its network of pipes in Herne Bay were filled to capacity by the deluge early on Sunday morning.
The soon-to-be-married pair were offered a one-night stay by Southern Water, which runs wastewater services across Kent, but instead opted to stay and try to dry out their flat.
Their sofa, bed, washing machine, oven, shoes and kitchen cupboards were all destroyed during the ordeal.
And to make matters worse, they say they were unable to secure insurance cover for their property after a similar incident four years ago.
“We opened up the back door and saw all our belongings floating out,” Mr King continued.
“We don’t know how we’re going to replace everything. We don’t know what we’re going to.
“I had sentimental things like pictures of my kids, but they’re all gone. We’ve got no way of cooking and we’ve got no way of cleaning our clothes. It’s devastating.
“The whole place needs redecorating – it looks like a tornado has hit it.
“We have no choice but to stay in our flat, but we can’t find anyone to look after our cats and we can’t leave them there alone.
“From what I know almost everyone along the street was affected.”
Fire crews started to receive calls from locals along the seafront and in the centre of town at 6.30am on Sunday, with the most serious incident requiring the removal of about 200,000 litres of liquid.
Mortimer Street resident Tanya Ryder says her home, along with a number of others in the town, was also hit by the floods.
The 46-year-old is hoping, in conjunction with more locals, to launch legal action against Southern Water.
Bosses at seafront ice cream shop Scoops believe the deluge has left them £10,000 out of pocket, as the business closed for two days and was forced to throw away stock and equipment.
Wetherspoon also confirmed that water seeped through the front of its Saxon Shore pub in Central Parade.
A Kent County Council spokeswoman says the authority briefly closed Sea Street and provided flood sacks as a precaution to a handful of properties in Hanover Street.
She estimates that the downpour saw as much as two inches of rain fall in parts of the county.
Southern Water says an internal probe revealed the submerged properties were affected by a combination “of surface-water flooding and internal flooding”, as the sewer system became “overwhelmed by the extreme rainfall”.
“Our analysis shows this was a once-in-50-year rainfall event,” the spokesman insisted.
“Levels in some areas were so high the sewers were full and backed up.
“We continue to investigate, but storm pumps may have failed to start up initially.
“However, sewers received up to 10 times the amount of water they normally carry and are designed to take.
“With the entire catchment overwhelmed by such huge levels of surface water entering the drains, it is not yet known if internal flooding could have been avoided.”
As a precaution, Southern Water will have technicians stationed at the pumps when rain is forecast for the area, until it is able to confirm the issue.
The firm has also pledged to reimburse residents for any damage caused.
Clean-up crews have disinfected properties and used dehumidifiers in all homes to help dry them out.
The firm will be telling affected customers: "We will ensure that we restore homes to their previous state and replace any items which have been damaged in this incident.
"Our priority is to ensure that your home is restored to its previous state and any items damaged are replaced as quickly as possible. We are committed to going the extra mile to support you at a difficult time."
Southern Water will reimburse any policy excess on household insurance and pick up the tab for customers without home insurance.
"We are doing this because, regardless of the cause of the flooding, we want to ensure customers are fully supported," the spokesman added.