Brian May said his past has been "wiped out" after flash flooding destroyed his precious memorabilia, as he blames London millionaires building iceberg basements.
The Queen guitarist, 73, is "devastated" after he came home to a sewage overflow on the bottom floor of his Kensington property, which destroyed his childhood photographs
He said his wife Anita Dobson had "a lifetime of memorabilia on the floor of our basement – and most of it is sodden and ruined" following intense rain in the capital this week.
Pedestrians were seen wading through streets, cars left abandoned and tube station steps engulfed by water. Rail services were disrupted and three flood alerts remained in place on Tuesday afternoon. In Kensington and Chelsea, 120 people were moved into hotels for safety.
May blamed the deluge at his home on the local "plague" of so-called iceberg excavations in the capital’s most expensive boroughs. For the last decade, rich homeowners have been digging deep into the ground to boost their square footage and create their dream mansions.
The musician said the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was warned years ago that deep basement extensions obstruct aquifers and "render the drainage system ineffective".
May wrote on social media: "I’m devastated – this stuff is only ‘things’, but it feels like Back to the Future when the photograph fades. Feels like a lot of my past has been wiped out. I’m angry."
Brian May had earlier posted about from the Royal Holloway College
Basements are inherently prone to flooding as they are the lowest level of a building, typically built partly or entirely below ground level. Groundwater can be above the level of the basement floor.
When local sewer systems are overwhelmed, this can result in basements being covered in sewage.
Emma Dent Coad, a Kensington and Chelsea councillor, said: "I understand where Mr May is coming from. A lot of people have had their basements flooded and it’s been absolutely horrific.
"It’s very likely these mega basements have had an effect – how could they not have an effect? A lot of people think it’s mega basements preventing water from going into the aquifer. We all think what Mr May thinks. The whole thing is insane."
Prof Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at the University of Reading, said it was much more likely that heavy rainfall overwhelming drainage was responsible for the flooding in May’s home.
"Technically, Mr May is right in that if you block the ground with impenetrable basements, that will impede the flow of water in the ground," she said.
"However, this is not the problem with the flash flooding in London. The problem is localised downbursts of rain which overwhelm the drainage systems.
"I feel very sorry for Mr May and it’s awful when your possessions are destroyed. It’s a terrible thing. People should not keep their most precious possessions on the ground floor because this can happen anywhere in the country."
A man takes his jet-ski out during flash floods in Poole, Dorset
A flooded road in Turnpike Lane, north London, after heavy rainfall
The government has announced that a new national alerting system will be introduced, which texts people guidance if there are life-threatening emergencies in their local area – such as floods, fires or terror attacks.
A Kensington and Chelsea council spokesperson said: “Our priority is to make sure residents who have been affected by last night’s flooding have the help they need. Overnight we have placed 120 residents in emergency hotel accommodation and are making emergency repairs this morning.
"We are making welfare calls to vulnerable residents and have set up a centre at The Curve in North Kensington where Council officers are on hand to support people affected.
“Flash floods have affected boroughs across London after sudden and torrential rainfall. This is causing damage and disruption across the city, not just here in Kensington and Chelsea, and is not linked to basement building.”
May was contacted for comment.