London helicopter crash: Residents' confusion over evacuation

Up to 40 residents were involved in the evacuation after the crash

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A woman who lives in a property near the scene of a fatal helicopter crash says residents were given "mixed messages" about evacuation.

Two people were killed and 12 hurt when the craft struck a crane in central London on Wednesday morning.

The crane, which was positioned on top of The Tower at One St George Wharf, was hit at about 08:00 GMT.

Dozens of residents spent the night away from their homes and some ended up roaming the streets.

Nabila Fowles-Gutierrez, 39, who lives in Armada House in St George Wharf, said: "We feel extremely upset and really let down.

"There are vulnerable, elderly and disabled people living in the building, and we were given mixed messages."

The Berkeley Group, which owns the building, said: "Following yesterday's incident, a number of buildings in the area were evacuated to ensure the safety of their residents.

'Confusion'

"We can confirm that Armada House was not one of the buildings that was evacuated as its residents were not deemed to be at risk."

But Ms Fowles-Gutierrez said: "There was confusion between the site manager for St George and the housing association." She added: "Housing association residents were told to evacuate.

Start Quote

Around 80 hotel rooms were needed to accommodate displaced residents and the cost of this has been met by St George”

End Quote Spokesman Berkeley Group

She said a disabled resident "got a call to leave the building immediately by her housing officer".

"She then knocked on her neighbour's (door) and evacuated," she said.

"Others stayed in the building.

"I wasn't called but received a text message at 2pm telling me it was safe to go back in the building."

Ms Fowles-Gutierrez, who works as a midwife at King's College Hospital, said: "I hadn't been told to evacuate in the first place.

"The alarming system is very inadequate in one of the biggest central London properties.

"There are no proper evacuation procedures so residents don't have clue what to do in an emergency.

"Basic safety procedures are not in place and it's not good enough."

She said she had written to London Mayor Boris Johnson to raise her raise her concerns and "fully expects him to respond".

A Berkeley Group spokesman responded: "Buildings were successfully evacuated in an expeditious manner, with the chairman of the residents' association praising the manner in which the evacuation was handled.

"As people from affected blocks came home from work and back to the building, they were registered and directed to local hotels having been provided with a voucher for accommodation that evening and out of pocket expenses.

"Around 80 hotel rooms were needed to accommodate displaced residents and the cost of this has been met by St George."

'Left stranded'

A 31-year-old resident of the nearby Riverside Court, which is not a Berkeley Group development, who was evacuated on Wednesday morning said she spent 24-hours of roaming the streets with her French flatmate.

The graphic designer, who did not want to be named, said: "We had nowhere to go. We were left stranded.

"I don't know anyone around to stay with so we just walked around all night. It was dark and freezing.

Riverside Court and The Tower Residents of Riverside Cour, said they had nowhere to go

"I feel frustrated, sleepy, dirty and I need to go to work."

She added: "We contacted the porter who said it might take a week for us to get back in because the crane was unstable."

The resident said no-one told her that Wandsworth and Lambeth Council had set up a shelter for those affected and she couldn't find any information on the council's website or Twitter feed.

She said the pair had not been allowed past five separate police cordons to get to their apartment on Wednesday evening, and were still not allowed past the cordon at Vauxhall station on Thursday morning at 11:00 GMT.

It was only after another 30-minute walk around to Nine Elms Lane that they passed a cordon to access their flats.

When they got back to their flat they found their neighbour Abigail Taylor, 30, had been allowed in on Wednesday night.

"There was general confusion and no-one knew if we were allowed in," Ms Taylor said.

One resident of Riverside Court said he didn't leave his apartment at all.

He said: "They were supposed to have knocked on our doors but I wasn't going anywhere, I'm going skiing tomorrow.

"I'm a structural engineer and could see the crane wasn't going to fall on our building."

Wandsworth Council said it had promoted the shelter on its website and Twitter feed but no-one sought accommodation there.

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