Floods hit St Albans district: With gallery

The river Lea has burst its banks and filled the Folly Fields

The river Lea has burst its banks and filled the Folly Fields - Credit: Archant

Residents were evacuated, children were rescued from a bus trapped in rising water and cars abandoned when St Albans suffered the worst flooding seen by locals in at least four decades.

After the skies unleashed downpour after downpour last week, roads throughout the district turned into flooded obstacle courses for motorists – three feet deep in places – resulting in one street after another having to be closed to traffic on Friday.

The Environment Agency (EA) has issued an amber alert for the saturated region.

In Sandridgebury Lane, a farmer came to the rescue of a bus carrying 20 pupils to school, which became stuck in floodwater under a bridge.

A spokeswoman for Herts Police said the farmer used his tractor to free the bus trapped in water four feet deep.

She said: “The water was over the clutch pedal, and children were on top of the seats.”

But later that day drivers ignored a road closure sign placed near the bridge and also became stuck in the deep water, prompting annoyed police to tweet: “Road closed means it’s closed. Don’t try your luck.”

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Firefighters rushed to the aid of residents in London Colney, where the Upper River Colne breached its banks again and excess water from roads quickly began inundating gardens and even some homes in the morning.

Rabeyah Miah said her brother, Ala Miah, and his family had to leave their High Street home after first the garden, and then the house became flooded.

She said: “It was horrendous. We were wading about in our wellies. We couldn’t keep the water out of the house. I don’t know where the water came from as we aren’t near the river.”

Meanwhile a fellow villager, Mandie Funnell, went to the aid of her dad, Freddie, 76, who is relatively housebound on Alexander Road.

Mandie said she assumed the water had run off nearby roads, and that the drainage system had not coped.

Freddie, ironically wearing a top bearing the words “life guard”, said he needed a boat to get across his garden.

Local councillor Simon Calder praised both St Albans district and London Colney parish councils for the “tremendous” support of residents, including during evacuation of some homes.

But there has been criticism of complacency amongst local authorities about the flood risk, and the EA for a lack of maintenance of water courses.

Lib Dem spokesman on community safety at Herts county council, Cllr Sandy Walkington, said gullies had not been maintained and roadside ditches had not been cleared, “forcing the closure of crucial links like Sandpit Lane and Colney Heath Lane and unnecessary flooding of neighbouring properties”.

St Albans MP Anne Main spoke of the “heartbreak” of seeing residents left helpless while their homes were devastated by floodwater.

She said many locals had complained of the lack of maintenance on gullies, ditches and river banks, adding that the EA had “let down constituents”.

For more on the floods – see pages 2 and 3