Flooded students are feeling abandoned by the council after claims they were refusing to distribute sandbags unless lives were in “lethal danger”.
The flooding was so severe that council workers operating a pumping system near Abingdon Road stopped the system for just half an hour and caused over 200 houses to go onto “red alert”.
Mehrunissa Sajjad, a third year at Merton who was staying at a house off Abingdon Road, was flooded last week.
“The Oxford City Council was totally useless when contacted, and said we shouldn’t ask for sandbags unless our lives were in ‘lethal danger’,” she said. Council officials said that there was no provision for delivery of sandbags, except for a limited number of elderly or disabled people. Despite the advertised depots being at least 25 minutes walk from the city centre, there was no reasonable means by which students without cars could retrieve the heavy bags to protect their houses from the floods.
Wadham second year Joe Miles said of his house: “the basement is like a swimming pool. There are three to six inches of water down there. The landlords have been very good, they’re covering all the damage, but I’m surprised that the council didn’t bother to deliver sandbags”.
In a call to the City Council in the afternoon of Friday 10th, an OxStu reporter – posing as a student in a flood-hit area – was advised by a council employee to use a bicycle basket or trolley to transport sandbags. This was despite their heavy weight and the need to take several bags to adequately protect a house.
When asked what to do if a house should flood before sandbags could be acquired, the council employee replied that there was not much that could be done as “most of our efforts are diverted at the minute to getting the sandbags to the locations to be collected”.
The Council official assured the reporter that they would call back and provide more information and assistance shortly. The Oxford Student provided contact details, but was not further contacted by the council.
The Duke of Monmouth pub on Abingdon Road has been acting as a sandbag depot over the past week. On Sunday, the bags supplied by the council had not been protected from the rain, and were subsequently ripped and waterlogged, with some weighing over 20 kilograms each. Although the manager of the pub said that most of these bags had been used and returned, a council official confirmed that they were the only ones available at the time.
A spokesman for Oxford City Council said: “There have been numerous deliveries of sandbags to the Duke of Monmouth public house on the Abingdon Road and we have had sand and bags available at Redbridge Park & Ride.
“Sandbags were made available from Saturday 4 January. We have responded to every single request for sandbags and we have proactively been delivering to areas we believed could be vulnerable.
“Officers were working 24 hours a day to help deal with the ever changing situation.”
Open spaces across the city are still flooded, with the area under Magdalen Bridge and next to Magdalen College’s Waynflete Building badly hit. The Abingdon Road area – which contains numerous student houses and the accommodation annexes of various colleges including Hertford – suffered from severe flooding.
Laura Martin, who lives on Western Road, commented that her house has been badly awffected by floods: “The carpets are ruined, and the basement is flooded due to the poor quality of the house – we’re in a flood zone but there was no waterproofing in the basement. I get the feeling this is a recurring problem.”
The Abingdon Road area – which contains numerous student houses and the accommodation annexes of various colleges including Hertford – suffered from severe flooding. A part of Abingdon Road proper was officially closed at the weekend (except to residents) as many students returned to Oxford after the vacation.
A subcontractor from Drayton Construction, who was working at the scene, said that he suspected some drivers were falsely claiming to be residents in order to get past. Alarmed local residents pointed out that cracks were appearing around the many of the drains in the area due to the pressure of the excess water.
Magdalen College grounds also flooded this week, leading to concerned reactions from students. “Riverside of the Waynflete now looks more like Swampside,” said Alice Theobald, a first-year English student at the college.
“The flooding next to Magdalen is pretty extensive but at least I can save money on my holiday to Venice,” added Toby Gill, a first-year History student.
Mark Blandford-Baker, the college’s Home Bursar, confirmed that “the water meadow flooded as intended and as usual in such conditions”.