Sussex family rescued by fire service as property is destroyed by flash flood: “It was like a tsunami”

A family said their lives have been destroyed after a flash flood smashed through their front door and destroyed the whole downstairs of the property.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 4:49 pm

Flora Storm, 44, and her boyfriend David Lee, 46, were asleep on the sofa in their property in South Terrace, Hastings, at about 10.30pm when they heard a loud bang.

They ran out into the hallway to find water coming through the letter box of their front door.

Flora said she grabbed her phone and ran upstairs to her 10-year-old daughter, who was asleep, when the front door was smashed open by the force of the water.

Basement area of a property in South Terrace, Hastings, flooded during a storm on 16/6/21. Property owner Sarah Lake, centre, with tenants David Lee and Flora Storm. SUS-210617-135751001

Within moments, the water had swept through the bottom floor of the property and was making its way up the stairs to where Flora, her daughter and David were.

The fire service, who arrived within minutes, rescued all three by helping them out of the first floor window and on to a ladder.

Returning to the house this morning (Thursday, June 17), Flora said: “The water was so high and so forceful. If we had stayed downstairs then the water would have been above our heads.

“The whole downstairs has been totally destroyed. The oven and fridge freezer have been knocked over, that’s how forceful the water was. All our belongings that were downstairs, all our memories, have been lost. We had been so happy, we were loving living there and this happened so quickly.

Basement area of a property in South Terrace, Hastings, flooded during a storm on 16/6/21. SUS-210617-135736001

“Waking up and hearing that noise, it was like a tsunami coming in. Now we’re homeless. Suddenly our life has been destroyed.

“At first we couldn’t get the window open upstairs and we started to panic, but eventually we got it open and the fire service rescued us with a ladder.”

Flora was told by the fire service and her landlord, Sarah Lake, that a similar incident like this happened approximately 20 years ago.

On that occasion, the flood defence burst and the drains were not capable of clearing the water.

Basement area of a property in South Terrace, Hastings, flooded during a storm on 16/6/21. SUS-210617-135936001

Flora said there have often been works taking place on the drainage system outside her property, but said she was unaware of the issue from 20 years ago.

She added: “The fire brigade, the police, they were all aware of the issue. They told me that it was known and that it has happened before. We had been living there for two and a half years and we had no idea.

“David and I returned to the house this morning and we felt sick looking at it. The water is absolutely filthy. The downstairs is destroyed and there is water damage in areas upstairs. The fire brigade has told us it is too dangerous to be in the building.

“I’m now awaiting a call from emergency housing, while my landlady is speaking to Southern Water and the council.”

Basement area of a property in South Terrace, Hastings, flooded during a storm on 16/6/21. Property owner Sarah Lake, centre, with tenants David Lee and Flora Storm. SUS-210617-135949001

A spokesman for East Sussex Fire said two fire engines attended South Terrace at 11.02pm after reports that flooding was affecting a number of properties.

“Three people were rescued from the 1st floor of a building using a ladder,” the spokesman said. “Crews wearing dry suits checked the basement too. Highways attended the area with sandbags and we contacted the local council regarding emergency accommodation.”

Hastings Borough Council said Flora and her family have been offered emergency temporary accomodation.

A spokesman said: “Our on-call senior management team were alerted to the flood late last night, and Flora was spoken to by a colleague then, just after midnight, and again first thing this morning. She was interviewed by a housing colleague this afternoon and is being offered emergency temporary accommodation.”

Basement area of a property in South Terrace, Hastings, flooded during a storm on 16/6/21. SUS-210617-135723001