Residents are facing a repair bill of tens of thousands of pounds after vandals caused a canal to overflow and flood Wigan homes.
Four houses in an Ince cul-de-sac found themselves suddenly under 1ft of water as a torrent from the nearby waterway cascaded down the street.
The blame has been levelled at mischief-makers who deliberately opened both ends of several of the famous flights of 13 Wigan locks between New Springs and Ince at once.
One householder counting the cost today also said that the situation was worsened because overflow facilities haven’t been properly looked after by the Canal and River Trust.
The properties affected are in Moorings Close, Higher Ince, and residents say that if it hadn’t been for early-riser Norman Shawcross spotting the street outside becoming a river at about 6am on Friday September 9, the devastation would have been much worse.
Alerted by the 62-year-old, they managed to close the lock gates, so stemming the flow.
I just happened to look out at about 6am and saw all this water coming down the streetNorman Shawcross
The fire crew from Hindley arrived but a spokesman said that because of the swift action of the residents the water had already subsided below the level of the damp course and there was little more than firefighters could do other than give advice.
But while the flood was quickly over, the effects are far longer lasting.
Brian Battle, 60, is one of those affected. He said: “It’s a good job that Norman happened to look out when he did. I dread to think what might have happened if the water had run unchecked for an hour. This happened before about 12 years ago and caused me £10,000 in damages. Carpet and other stuff have gone again.
“I know whoever it was that opened the locks is mainly to blame but we have been trying to get the Canal Trust to clear out the bywashes for ages to take overflow water properly, because they are clogged up with weeds, and nothing has been done. Some of these problems could have been avoided if they had been working properly.”
Mr Shawcross said: “I just happened to look out at about 6am and saw all this water coming down the street. I immediately knew what was going on because it has happened before and got the neighbours up to stop the water getting in as best as possible and also to shut the locks.
“As it is though it is going to cost a few thousand. The worst affected is our annexe which we use as a play room for the grandchildren. We have just had the assessor round. A kitchen unit, a three-piece suite and a TV are among the casualties.”
Mr Shawcross said he had some sympathy with the canal’s custodians. He said the likeliest scenario was a boat user had lost their lock key and the vandals had found it and decided to cause mayhem.