Students evacuated from Sheffield flats as emergency is declared

More than 100 students were evacuated from a block of flats after a power blackout left them with no water, electricity or fire alarms.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 2:26 pm
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 3:02 pm
Royal Riverside flats, Priestley Street, Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells
Royal Riverside flats, Priestley Street, Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

Council chiefs ordered the emergency evacuation of Royal Riverside on Priestley Street because it was too dangerous for people to stay in a tower block without smoke alarms.

Sheffield’s two universities swung into action and housed many students temporarily. Others have been accommodated in a Premier Inn.

The council praised the universities and also individual council employees who gave some students lifts in their own cars. And they warned the private developers who own the building will be footing the bill for the evacuation and accommodation costs.

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The students won’t return until the council is assured the alarms and power are working properly.

Coun Paul Wood, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and safer communities, said: “I took a call at midnight on Tuesday and at 8am on Wednesday morning I was talking to senior officers. By lunchtime we had an investigation team there and the council’s private sector housing team.

“We gave them until Wednesday teatime to get everything working but they couldn’t do that. Because there were no fire alarms working, we issued a prohibition order to have the building emptied.

“There are 127 flats so at least 100 people were evacuated as some are shared units. The universities were fantastically helpful. There were a lot of international students there who didn’t speak English so we had an added problem.”

Coun Wood said officers want to make sure the building is completely safe before anyone returns.

“Although it’s a private building, the council can get involved if there is a safety issue. We will bill them for the cost that’s been incurred. We could have had a massive problem having that many people in a building with no fire alarms.

“We had officers putting people into their own cars and driving them, they went out of their way to support the students and I want to praise them for that.”