Resident set up lifeline for those without water in Hailsham

Sam Imber & son Preston Imber SUS-151205-162935001

Sam Imber & son Preston Imber SUS-151205-162935001

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A Hailsham resident set up a Facebook group which became a lifeline for the town after the water supply was shut off.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a burst water main left Hailsham and the surrounding area without water.

Sam Imber SUS-151205-162922001

Sam Imber SUS-151205-162922001

Sam Imber, 26, of Brunel Drive, Hailsham, stepped in by setting up the Facebook group Hailsham News and Talk to help residents without water, after a major burst in the water main on Sunday. The group now has more than 1,600 members.

He liaised with South East Water, and rallied volunteers to help distribute it to residents - including delivering bottled water to the elderly and disabled.

“I started the Facebook group on the Sunday morning at around 8am,” he said.

“Within a few hours we had 1,500 members for the updates we were putting out.”

Residents were sharing information on which areas were without water, and where they could get bottled water from.

“Through the Facebook group there were a number of people messaging us, advising us about elderly or disabled people who we were making a priority,” said Sam.

Sam and around 12 volunteers helped deliver bottled water to those in need, including to care homes in the town.

They also coordinated bottled water distribution from a number of destinations in Hailsham, which were coming in on vans from Colchester, Stevenage, Heathrow and Kent.

“Out of probably around 4,000 people I have seen in the last 48 hours, half a dozen were rude,” said Sam.

“It was a challenge, to say the least. People were distressed and annoyed.”

The volunteers worked around the clock to make sure everyone had enough water, including a delivery to a care home at 3am on Monday morning.

Sam said he has experience in emergency planning, but “couldn’t thank the volunteers enough”.

He did criticise South East Water and Wealden District Council, and said an emergency plan should have been in place.

However he said, “South East Water did not know the extent of the damage at first. But the burst was the worst they’ve seen in 40 years.

“I do understand the frustration but also the guys were on site doing what they could.”

One resident, Francesca James, told the Herald, “I think the real story here is the fantastic job undertaken by Sam Imber and the other volunteers in the face of little or no support from the MP and the water company. Without Sam and the volunteers organising and delivering water to the car parks and the vulnerable in the area, this could have been disastrous. Yes, it was a great show of community but it’s a shame that those in positions of power did little to help.”

Wealden District Councillor for Hailsham, Nick Collinson, who helped share information on the Facebook site, said, “As a Hailsham resident and business owner, I was tremendously impressed with what I witnessed on Sunday, when the water shortage began to take effect.

“There were so many local residents who gave up their day off to help South East Water distribute water bottles to the public. They were crucial to the initial response and helped ensure that any hardship was kept to a minimum.

“I would particularly like to thank Sam Imber, who was instrumental in organising the response at short notice.”

The burst water main was fixed on Monday, but some residents did not get their water back until late on Tuesday (May 12).

Some homes in Roselands, were still without water this morning, after a separate burst in the Eastbourne area.