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'The road just collapsed': Witnesses tell of dramatic moment Lewisham sinkhole opened up sparking flood chaos

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 28/11/2016 Daniel O'Mahony and Chloe Chaplain


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Traders fear a burst water main which caused chaos on a busy high street could cost tens of thousands of pounds in lost stock and business.

Emergency services cordoned off Lee High Road in Lewisham on Saturday evening after a coach carrying French tourists became stranded when a sinkhole suddenly opened up as the street was submerged.

Local business owners used sandbags to protect their shops from six inches of flood water.

Police have warned residents to “prepare contingencies” as work continues to remove the coach and repair the damage to the highway.

There are concerns a gas main may also have been ruptured when the road collapsed, leading to delays and it is unclear when it will be reopened. 

Thames Water last night confirmed mains water supply to neighbouring houses had been restored.

Resident David Foster, 55, said: “The coach came through and the road just collapsed. There were a load of schoolgirls on there, I think they were French students.

“It sounded like a big thud. It was travelling at fair speed.”

He added: “I was saying its lucky it’s not like the sink hole in Japan where it swallowed the whole road. But they fixed that in a week – this one in England will probably take six months and it will probably be a nightmare for some time to come.”

After the coach was stranded at about 5.30pm on Saturday London Fire Brigade rescued passengers from the vehicle, who were offered free food from a local supermarket as they spent the night in a shelter.

Neighbour, Douglas Greenidge, 62, said the coach passengers had gathered on the street outside his home. 

He said: “They were obviously very concerned, because the whole street was covered in water.

“We haven’t been given any information, about from the guys in the gas van saying they can’t [lift the coach] until the gas has been shut off.”

“We are very concerned. You live right here, and it looks like a sink hole here – so how wide is it going to go? And how long before we get back to normal?”

French student Yasser Baraka, who lives on the corner where the sink hole opened up, said: “[The water main] exploded, and then a hole came in the road. And the bus was going straight, and the wheel was trapped in the hole.

“We heard screaming, and then everyone came out of the bus. It was French tourists, so I spoke with them.

“They said they left their clothes inside the bus and everyone was wondering what was happening.”

The 20-year-old, who studies business at the London School of Commerce, said the bus passengers had not been impressed by the experience.

He added: “They told me that it was the last time they would come here.”

Restaurant owner Ahmed Kazi said he was unable to open The Darjeeling on Saturday night because of the flooding, and had lost “a lot of stock” after the basement was submerged.

Brandishing a full list of bookings for Saturday night in front of a near-empty restaurant, Mr Kazi added: “The customers are scared to come. We can’t do deliveries to their houses because the drivers are stuck.

“Yesterday they were making us scared saying get out of from this property, it’s going to blow up.”

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