More than 1,200 homes in Richmond were left without central heating after a burst water pipe flooded gas mains last Thursday.
Residents described the scenes as ‘a state’ and ‘apocalyptic’ as temperatures hit freezing overnight while some homes still have no heating or hot water.
Around 100 engineers from Cadent Gas came to individual houses over the weekend to turn off the gas supply in order to then pump the water out of the pipes.
Gas supply was restored to many homes on Sunday but more water was discovered in the pipes network on Tuesday which delayed the process to restore the service entirely.
Roy Lewis, 76, who lives on Mount Ararat Road next to the pipe, still had gas due to the slope of the road causing the water to flow away from his home.
He said: “On Thursday morning, there was a torrent of water running down the road, it was almost like a river going down the road.
“People were ringing up Thames Water during the day to tell them that there was obviously a huge problem here.
“They turned up in force and by then it was already the case that the water that got into the gas pipes.”
Cadent set up a customer centre at the Richmond Hill Hotel where they supplied Richmond residents with electric heaters and hot plates.
Mr Lewis said: “Everyone’s fending for themselves because a lot of people have electric showers, heaters, immersion heaters.
“It must be costing them a fortune in electricity but that’s how they’re coping with it.”
The community rallied together with some hotels and gyms offering free use of their showers to those whose hot water is gas-heated.
Kevin Hegarty, media relations officer for Cadent, said: “It’s been one of those things where we just kick in.
“Every now and again an incident like this does happen, sometimes it’s just a couple of houses, sometimes it’s thousands.
“We’ve got this well-rehearsed plan that just kicks in. In essence we just move en masse into an area and we just get the job done.”
He explained the priority for Cadent is people’s safety and they could not do the vital pumping work until every building had switched off the gas supply.
According to Mr Hegarty, engineers use tankers, with the help of cameras to show them where to target, for the water extraction process.
He added: “The people of Richmond have just been unbelievable. We all have families ourselves, we all want warmth in our own homes, the last thing we’d want is to lose gas ourselves, we know what it’s like.
“Understandably people are frustrated, but overwhelmingly people have been unbelievably patient and understanding.
“We’ve had some really nice, kind messages come in from people. Our guys are working morning ‘till night and well into the night to stay around, so it’s been lovely to hear.”
He said just half an egg cup of water can block the pipe that carries gas into a property and in this incident the engineers extracted tens of thousands of litres of water on Sunday night alone.
He concluded: “We know it’s not nice to be cold and not have hot water which is why, thankfully, people have taken up the offer of us giving them free heaters and hot plates and things to give some kind of warmth, although we know it’s not the kind of warmth that you want.”
Ollie Moore, on Twitter, said: “Our electric has also gone down the last two nights due to everyone using their heaters to stay warm. Very frustrating, especially with a baby and also for the elderly residents on our street.”
Cadent used the Priority Services Register to identify the Richmond residents who are most in need of heating and hot water and ensured they were first to get their gas back.
Robby Yung from Richmond said: “I think Cadent seem to have done a good job, as far as I can tell, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see the Red Cross knocking on our door two nights in a row to check on us.”
He claimed, in his memory, this was not be the first incident caused by Richmond’s Victorian water infrastructure, but it was definitely the largest.
Thames Water said: “Our engineers were quickly on site on Thursday and were able to find and fix the leak.
“Since then we’ve had a team supporting Cadent as they help any customers who have been affected.”
Once the incident is resolved, residents will be automatically compensated £60 per 24 hours they were without gas.
Cadent could not say when every home will have gas again but Mr Hegarty said that the further away a home is from the centre of the incident, the sooner the engineers will put on the gas.