Bereaved families are left to save flooded graves
Flowers and pictures strewn across cemetery as loved ones’ plots are found under water after downpour
09 October, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
Bereaved families went to work at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery after finding their loved ones’ graves submerged in water
GRIEVING families were left to bail out water from loved ones’ graves with buckets and their bare hands after part of a cemetery was flooded during heavy rain.
The mother of a murdered young man was among dozens of bereaved families who were shocked to find a chaotic scene when they arrived at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery over the weekend. Flowers and pictures, which had been lovingly laid, were strewn across the ground or floating in more than two feet of water that had filled the sunken graves.
Keetha Allaway, whose 22-year-old son Imani was shot dead in July on the Westbourne Estate in Holloway, said: “This has been a complete and utter nightmare. My sister and I spent hours fishing the flowers and pictures out of the saturated pit and cleaning them.
“We were on our hands and knees trying to drain the water, digging with our raw fingers.”
Ms Allaway first expressed concern about the state of her son’s grave on September 24. She raised the issue again the following Thursday when it started filling with water.
Then with the heavy rain over the weekend the whole area descended into “mayhem”. She said: “Graves were collapsing left, right and centre. The families couldn’t believe it. We were all her sobbing our hearts out thinking of our loved ones soaking in water.”
Amanda Francis arrived on Saturday morning with her son Courtney to visit her father Peter, 86, who was buried in July.
She told the Tribune: “When we arrived I saw my mum screaming and putting her hands over her head. We jumped out of the car and ran over to my dad’s grave. The photos were floating and flowers were everywhere.”
She added: “Mum had one of Dad’s pictures and she kept saying sorry to it. We keep telling her it’s not her fault. She is still in a state now.”
Ms Francis said she now wants her father’s body to be exhumed and cremated.
The section of the cemetery that flooded only came into use last year. It is also one of the more expensive areas with some plots going for up to £13,000.
Emily Morris also travelled to the cemetery on Saturday to visit the grave of her grandfather, Brendan Corcoran.
She said: “It was a very distressing sight for the family. My grandfather was a good man and he deserves a peaceful resting place. And now look what has happened. We are all in shock and we want answers. This cannot happen again.”
The council have admitted that there was a blocked pipe in the area but say it did not contribute to the flooding. Officials have insisted the situation was due to the heavy rainfall.
The families have demanded that the council provides them with documents that show what steps were taken to prevent such a problem.
A spokesman for Islington and Camden Cemetery Service said: “We are very sorry for any distress that the appearance of these graves caused families and friends over the weekend. The water on top of the graves was caused by a prolonged period of heavy rainfall.
“We are rectifying the damage caused and talking to the families affected, working with them to restore the graves to their original condition. We welcome anyone else with concerns to contact us. We are also increasing the number of staff on-site at weekends to respond to incidents and promptly address any concerns.”