Watch: Flash flooding sparks chaos as torrential rain lashes South East

·6 min read
Heavy rain causes flooding on Pentonville Road, Kings Cross, London
Heavy rain causes flooding on Pentonville Road, Kings Cross, London

Floods have swept across parts of the UK, leaving some homes, businesses and streets under water after weeks of dry weather.

The heavy slow-moving showers had led the Met Office to issue an amber thunderstorm warning covering most of the southeast of England, including parts of London, on Wednesday.

A yellow thunderstorm warning was also in place for the east of England, London and the South East plus the South West.

A warning was also issued for thunderstorms across parts of Kent and Medway on Thursday.

Gatwick Airport warned the weather conditions could cause flight delays, tweeting: "Air traffic control restrictions are currently in place across the South of England and parts of Europe due to poor weather conditions. This will, unfortunately, cause delays and cancellations to some flights today."

Homes and businesses in north and east London were flooded, while motorists on the North Circular abandoned their cars after the road was submerged. The M25 was also blocked, with National Highways staff sent to clear floodwater.

The Almeida Theatre, in Islington, stopped a performance of Patriots, starring Tom Hollander, and evacuated the audience and cast after the roof began to leak.

David Adler, 49, who attended the Almeida performance with his wife and 18-year-old son, said an alarm began to sound before a staff member came in and told everyone they had to leave.

Water was running down the steps leading out of the circle, he said, adding: “I think there must have been water coming through the ceiling. Everyone was gutted because it finishes on Saturday, and so we won’t know how it ends.”

The theatre is just off Upper Street, where videos showed water streaming over the edges of the pavements and overwhelming gutters on Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesman for the theatre said: “Unfortunately, due to heavy rainfall this afternoon we experienced a number of leaks at the theatre and had to cancel our matinee performance today.

“We are sorry to those audience members affected, but the safety of our staff and audience is our top priority. We will contact all the audience members affected by the cancellation in the coming days.”

Flooding also hit the busy central London Victoria Station, forcing some shops and platforms 7 and 8 to close for a period in the afternoon.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "Not long after 3pm this afternoon, station colleagues at London Victoria noticed flooding at the main entrance due to heavy rainfall, with large volumes of water running down the slope leading towards the eastern concourse.

"Some retail units and platforms had to be closed."

Southeastern Railway introduced "precautionary speed restrictions" on its Hastings line, and between Tonbridge and Ashford International as a temporary measure.

As the evening rush hour began, London mayor Sadiq Khan said: "Parts of London and our transport network are currently experiencing disruption due to thunderstorms and flash flooding."

A man was pictured attempting to clear floodwater near King’s Cross station with a broom.

More than four inches of rain was recorded in gauges in parts of Sussex on Wednesday.

The Met Office said disruption would continue into Wednesday evening, with an amber weather warning for danger to life from fast-flowing and deep floodwater in force until 10pm.

Another weather warning covers part of Kent until 8am on Thursday, although the worst of the effects will be felt tonight.

Flooding is likely to affect homes and businesses "quickly", as 30mm to 50mm of rain could fall in just an hour, while a few places may see more than 100mm in a few hours.

Forecasters say this could lead to train and bus cancellations amid difficult driving conditions, power cuts and communities becoming cut off from roads.

Lightning, hail and strong winds could also lash areas included in the warning, which spreads across Suffolk, Kent, Surrey and West Sussex.

Three young women sprint for cover in Highgate, North London - Gavin Rodgers/ Pixel8000
Three young women sprint for cover in Highgate, North London - Gavin Rodgers/ Pixel8000

The sudden downpours hit as Thames Water, which supplies 15 million people, confirmed it is putting a hosepipe ban in place next week, saying water levels in its reservoirs were "much lower than usual".

The gym in the Houses of Parliament was also flooded out.

Town hall officials in Hackney warned residents that "severe flooding" meant they should "avoid" Stoke Newington in the east London borough and it was working to clear drains and hand out sandbags.

Heavy downpours also left "large pools of water in several locations" in Islington and Finsbury Park, north London, the council said.

Wednesday was the fourth day in a row of thunderstorm warnings in the UK.

Nottinghamshire County Council said that at least 30 homes and business premises in its region were hit and an eight-foot-wide sinkhole had been reported to have appeared in the Matalan car park.

Worksop Leisure Centre was put on standby as a rest centre in case properties needed to be evacuated and a tree was reported to have fallen in Carlton Road, according to the council.

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it was carrying out "a drying out job" and asked people to ensure the emergency department is "used appropriately".

A spokesman said this was needed as a heavy downpour had left standing water that had got into some of the buildings in Bassetlaw Hospital.

Stagecoach East Midlands, which serves Hull, Lincolnshire and North Notts, told customers that all of its services had been operating "to the best of our ability" but flooding had caused disruption across the whole Worksop network.

The Environment Agency's flood duty manager Neil Davies said: "We urge people not to drive though flood water - it is often deeper than it looks and just 30cm of flowing water is enough to float your car."