A HUMAN chain was formed by volunteers from a Basingstoke charity to bail out flood water from their premises following a “catastrophic” leak.

As previously reported, The Safe, based in Winchester Street, at the Top of Town, suffered a flood after a water main burst resulting in gallons of water flooding into the building and damaging stock.

However, Ayliffe Taylor, coordinator for The Safe, said the damage caused by the flood was far less severe thanks to the efforts of volunteers.

She told the Gazette she heard water and went to have a look inside the building finding it gushing through the wall downstairs, saying: “It was such a catastrophic leak coming out at bucket-full a second. I thought ‘oh my gosh’ and didn’t know what to do.”

A quick-thinking vicar who had been having a meeting with Ayliffe grabbed a plastic stacker box to catch some of the flood water, and an emergency plumber was called.

In a stroke of luck, the charity had organised a leaving party for one of its volunteers that day, and so an army of volunteers arrived at the venue who were able to help bail out the water.

“We made a human chain for two and a half hours with buckets of water chucking them out onto the street,” explained Ayliffe, adding: “You would not believe the dedication of volunteers. And in true British spirit, we still had a tea party with afternoon tea, then carried on clearing afterwards. There was a real Blitz spirit which we have seen so much of in the last year and a half.”

Ayliffe, a mother-of-two, said it was a “miracle” that most of the stock was saved, with further volunteers from the church community offering to wash items which had become wet, including school uniforms.

The charity, which has been supporting families, parents, and parents to be in practical ways with counselling, playgroups and providing clothing and equipment for 12 years, did lose some brand-new baby toys which would have gone to families struggling at Christmas.

However, Ayliffe said it was lucky that the flood happened when it did, because a day later the charity closed for the summer holidays, and it would not have been noticed until the water had ruined all the stock.

“We took one trailer full to the dump and everything else was saved. We have tonnes of resources down there,” she said, adding: “We had so many people calling to ask if we needed help washing things. It was astounding.”

This included Basingstoke Voluntary Action which is providing volunteers to help put everything back inside the building.

The Safe is holding open days on August 12, 13 and 14 for anyone who needs items during the summer holidays, including school uniform.

Ayliffe said: “We were really worried it wouldn’t go ahead but now it can because of the generosity of the people of Basingstoke in washing, tidying, moving, and redecorating, plus those who quite literally bailed us out on the day of the leak.”

Southern Water and the emergency plumber managed to stop the flood but had difficulties turning off the water because the stop cock was covered by a borough council planter outside, preventing them gaining access to it.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s executive director of residents’ services Rebecca Emmett said: “Following gas work at the Top of the Town, a number of large planters were temporarily relocated nearby to allow the gas company to reinstate the area back to its original condition.

“Due to the size of these planters, specialist machinery was required to move these on Winchester Street and these planters have remained in this position due to the gas works temporarily stopping as a result of the pandemic.

“We received a call from South East Water following reports of a leak in a property in Winchester Street and alongside their work to turn the water supply off to prevent further flooding, we removed a planter that was on a stoptap for the property.

“We want to thank South East Water and the occupants of the property for their patience whilst we quickly resolved the issue.”