Burst mains close town centre

A BURST water main caused Boxing Day drama in Ottery.

The Square was cordoned off after the mains burst in Broad Street and police closed the town centre.

Firefighters were called out at 3.40pm, and helped South West Water and police officers, who were already in attendance, with pumping using a mini ejector pump, shovels and small tools.

Watch commander Gary Shaw said: “A lot of the town had reduced water pressure. We attended because it was starting to enter Boots, so we diverted the water with sandbags.”

David Stevens, a dispenser at Boots, at 3-5 Broad Street, said some water had got into the cellar.

“We put the flood gates up every night anyway, and the water was coming up to the flood gates,” he said.

The Volunteer Inn, run by Kevin Carter and Michelle Denning, saw an influx of people coming in to watch what was happening.

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“It was pretty dramatic,” said Kevin. “We lost our water, and couldn’t use things like the washing machine or glass washer. It came back on around 11.30pm.”

A 27-year-old resident out walking his parents’ dog saw events unfold.

He said: “The Square looked like a major emergency had taken place and was closed. People were standing around wondering what was going on.

“Torrents of water were gushing from the concrete and Prospect Place looked more like a river than a road.”

There was panic buying of bottled water in shops as a rumour the entire town’s water supply was cut off spread. The Co-Operative, in Yonder Street, all but sold out, with a fresh delivery not expected until yesterday.

Assistant manager Emma Salter said: “It was manic, people were buying it all up, and we were left with very limited supplies.”

Following nearly two weeks of sub-zero temperatures, the sudden thaw has led to an unprecedented surge in reports of burst mains across Devon as frozen water in pipes begins to melt.

South West Water has drafted in extra staff to handle a rise in calls reporting their own leaking pipes, leaking mains or a loss of water supply and pressure.