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Victims of floods in £1 million claim bid

Health campaigner is elected as leader of action group

A flood action group has been formed to hit Southern Water bosses "where it hurts". Furious residents packed into the basement bar of the Bun Penny pub on Thursday to discuss seeking compensation from the water giant following floods in August. They say their total claim could top £1 million. Campaign leader David Shortt told the group:

"I have been flooded five times in four years and I am sick of it."

The graphics designer from Mortimer Street said:

"The best way to make our voices heard is as a group, We must find out who was responsible and make them pay."

Residents formed the Herne Bay Flood Action Group - Flag - and elected Mr Shortt as chairman of a fighting committee. A similar disaster happened in 2005 following a computer fault at the pumping station. Mr Shortt said:

"It appears next to nothing has been done by Southern Water since then."

Canterbury City Council engineer Ted Edwards said there had been regular flooding in Herne Bay until the mid-1980s when a 6ft diameter relief sewer was installed 12ft below the town to cope with excess rain water. Mr Edwards said:

"On August 25 there was only 26mm of rain which shouldn't have caused any problems. Yet something wasn't working properly. It sounds as if there was a problem with the pumps."

In June this year Southern Water gave Mr Shortt £217 compensation. He said:

"We have to make them pay out big for everyone's inconvenience. We must be compensated with a serious amount of money "We have no idea what effect these floods have had on our houses but I reckon it has taken at least five figures off their value. The amount we claim must reflect this."

City councillor Mike Patterson said the council had already written a "very firm" letter to Southern Water demanding to know what went wrong. Bay MP Roger Gale has summoned Southern Water bosses to meet him at the Houses of Parliament this week. City councillor Ron Flaherty said:

"It is terribly important we find out what happened."

Businessman Bill Briggs, who owns Briggsy's Antiques Emporium and had his living quarters in his cellar flooded, said he called Southern Water at 8pm that day when water started coming up through his toilet but had the phone put down on him. He said:

"We are their early warning system but they didn't listen to me."

Retired barrister June Raybaud insisted everyone write down exactly what happened during the flood, adding:

"You need to work out just how much you have lost in time, inconvenience and property. We could be talking £1 million."

Investigations by Southern Water have found that a valve on an emergency outlet pipe at the King's Hall Pumping station, which should have been open, was actually closed preventing storm-water from being released out to sea. This therefore backed up in the sewerage system and eventually overflowed and led to the flooding of the basements of 60 homes on Wednesday, August 25. Further investigations to find out why the valve was closed are continuing. Director of customer services at Southern Water, Kim Salmon, said:

"Firstly, I want to once again say sorry to all those who were affected by the flooding. Our immediate priority remains to complete a full clean-up and help everyone get back to normal. We have been able to find out why there was flooding, although we still need to establish why the valve was shut. Work to discover this is continuing so we can ensure the problem should not happen again."

To join Flag call Mr Shortt on 01227 741144.

HB Times 16th September 2010

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