'I'm homeless': Downpour from sprinkler system floods Havant tower block with some flats evacuated

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RESIDENTS had to evacuate their homes after a wallpaper steamer set off a sprinkler system in their block of flats.

Gushing water forced occupants to leave Chichester House in Lockerley Road, West Leigh, Havant, on Sunday morning. Firefighters shut off the electrics and stemmed the flow of water.

On one side of the building, water began to seep down from the seventh floor to ground level. Sixth floor resident Sue Ashman has been left picking up the pieces after what happened.

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Sprinklers in Chichester House in Lockerley Road, Havant, flooded flats across seven floors Picture: Sarah Standing (311022-5122).Sprinklers in Chichester House in Lockerley Road, Havant, flooded flats across seven floors Picture: Sarah Standing (311022-5122).
Sprinklers in Chichester House in Lockerley Road, Havant, flooded flats across seven floors Picture: Sarah Standing (311022-5122).

Trying not to sob, she told The News: ‘I’m very worried and stressed. I’m homeless. I had to call my GP. I’ve got nowhere to go; I’ve lost all my possessions. I don’t know what to do.’

Ms Ashman said she first noticed what was happening when a neighbour on the upper floor banged on her door at 7.25am.

‘I looked straight into my bathroom and I can hear the water coming through my airing cupboard,’ the school librarian added.

‘It was running like a downpour of heavy rain. We started seeing water that was brown coming through the ceiling.

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Ms Ashman said firefighters were at the block within moment of her calling. She saw a downpour of water seep into her flat from a floor above her. Picture: Sarah Standing (311022-1927).Ms Ashman said firefighters were at the block within moment of her calling. She saw a downpour of water seep into her flat from a floor above her. Picture: Sarah Standing (311022-1927).
Ms Ashman said firefighters were at the block within moment of her calling. She saw a downpour of water seep into her flat from a floor above her. Picture: Sarah Standing (311022-1927).

Ms Ashman said she saw water coming down the lift while trying to leave the building in a rush. After Ms Ashman called the fire brigade, emergency personnel arrived within five minutes.

‘I was panicking,’ she said. ‘I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I was really upset, and the neighbours were trying to reassure me. I was in a really bad state.’

Ms Ashman’s son and a fireman managed to salvage some of her clothes from the flood, but her situation remains uncertain.

The Guinness Partnership owns the building, and Ms Ashman has been temporarily rehoused in a Premier Inn in Bedhampton.

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Damaged lift at Chichester House in West Leigh, Havant, after a flood on October 30. Picture: Sue Ashman.Damaged lift at Chichester House in West Leigh, Havant, after a flood on October 30. Picture: Sue Ashman.
Damaged lift at Chichester House in West Leigh, Havant, after a flood on October 30. Picture: Sue Ashman.

Ms Ashman suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart problems and diabetes and is registered disabled – finding suitable housing is proving difficult.

She said a dehumidifier is being put in her home and she could move back in once the lifts are fixed. No exact date has been given.

She added that several leaks have happened from higher floors in the block which have damaged her flat. ‘I knew something major was going to happen. There has been a lack of good communication from Guinness for some time.

‘Others have been mopping up floors left, right and centre. The flooding has broken all the lifts.’

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A spokesman from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue said: ‘A number of residents were required to be rehoused by the housing company after their flats suffered water damage.

‘Firefighters worked to isolate the sprinkler and the electrics before the incident was handed over to a representative of the housing company at 9.36am.’

A Guinness Partnership spokesman said no one was made homeless, the flat where the sprinkler set off is ‘temporarily uninhabitable’, and temporary accommodation was given to the occupant.

He added: ‘The sprinkler system at Chichester House was activated on exposure to extreme heat due to the use of a wallpaper steamer in one of the flats.

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‘We are providing dehumidifiers to other residents whose homes have been affected by water travelling between some homes and will cover the cost of running these.

‘Guidance on how to avoid accidental activation of sprinklers was provided to all residents when the system was installed.’