London churches count flood cost after heavy rains

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

Heavy rains, which caused cars to be abandoned and streets and houses inundated across the capital, affected a number of churches.

Reverend Colin Amos, vicar of St Augustine’s, Kilburn, a Victorian Gothic church known as “North London Cathedral”, replenishes water in his sacristy as more gallons poured into the basement; the water level rose to four feet in just 90 minutes.

He singled out local firefighters, who spent hours pumping water from the church’s basement, for special praise. “I can’t talk about them enough. After pumping out the flooded houses of parishioners who live in basements nearby, they came to see us at 8 p.m. I finally waved to them at 4:40 am the next day.

“I am of course focusing on my parishioners who have lost their homes, but we certainly have a lot of work to do here. I actually felt the first drops of rain fall around 3:15 pm; at 5:15 am, I was taking pictures of huge ponds that were forming in the cemetery. As the water began to enter the church, I sent it back as quickly as possible.

“Then I looked into the basement and could smell gas; supposedly the supplier to cut the gas. Much of the basement was completely submerged, including the organ blower, which is now in ruins. We also had three new boilers in the basement; the water has risen above the boiler controls, and as a result they are also ruined.

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

She said: “The damage is all in our crypt chambers: we had 30cm of water there. He damaged the floor and the kitchen; we are still waiting to know if this has impacted the floor heating. We have dehumidifiers there right now, and we’re waiting for the surveyors to look at the heat.

“We feel lucky to have had the last group of children for the summer the previous Sunday, but we have a nursery set to start there in September; So there are only six weeks left to complete it, and we still don’t know the extent of the damage. Our prayer is that the underfloor heating is correct.

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

A spokesperson for Ecclesiastical Insurance said that while most flood appeals received from churches were for relatively small-scale damage, they were already processing six claims for more than £ 100,000.

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