St Albans sinkhole: Affinity apologises after leaving blind 80-year-old without water
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Affinity Water has been blasted for leaving an elderly blind man without water during the sinkhole crisis.
When David Kaloczi received a phone call from his concerned 80 year old father, Francis, from his home at Fontmell Close at 6.15am last Thursday, saying he had no water, gas or power, he immediately phoned the utility to see what was going on.
Unbeknown to both men at the time, those services were no longer available because part of the road had collapsed into the sinkhole.
David told the Herts Advertiser: “They told me he wasn’t on the ‘at risk’ register. But he is a totally blind 80 year old. As he had no running water, I asked Affinity if they could supply him with bottles of the water until the supply had been resumed.
“What didn’t help me as a concerned resident was being told to phone back later on - what is the point of phoning Affinity’s emergency helpline when they can’t help? So I lodged a formal complaint.”
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Worried about his father, David went to Fontmell Close at about 6.45am where he discovered emergency services personnel gathered at the cul-de-sac.
He said: “I went there with bottles of water for dad but the road was closed off so I had to walk around the back, through the heath, to go into the site through someone’s garden. The police allowed me through.
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“I noticed the sinkhole in the road, and thought ‘that’s a big hole!’ It was like walking through a scene of Holby City.
“I knocked on dad’s door at Fontmell - he is about 10 houses from the sinkhole. My dad was wondering what was going on as no one had gone to him before then. He didn’t have any water at all and the power was off.
“I told him about the sinkhole and dad’s reaction was, ‘well, why hasn’t anyone told me or knocked on my door, or gone around the close with a loudspeaker?’
“So I went outside and asked for assistance. The Red Cross supplied him with a flask of hot water.
“I joked with them that it was the second time the Red Cross had helped my father as in 1956, despite being penniless, he made a ‘great escape’ from Hungary into Austria, after the Russians took over, and Red Cross helped him reach the UK.”
But David was to be further disappointed by Affinity’s poor reaction to the crisis when he asked staff at the scene for water to be delivered to the site as his father was not keen on being immediately evacuated from his home.
Yet again Affinity declined, saying that the police had refused such access because of the sinkhole.
He asked: “If they had a really major emergency, how would they cope, given that they couldn’t help people affected by one sinkhole?”
David turned instead to the county council for help. The authority helped to evacuate Francis into a nursing home in Camp Road while repairs to the road are carried out and full services are returned.
• Since raising a complaint with the chief executive of Affinity Water, the service has offered a sincere apology over its handling of the matter, and told David: “A full review is being carried out to ensure that some very important lessons are learnt.” There will also be a review of the incident as a whole to identify improvements in preparation for any similar incidents that may occur in the future.