Students and workers flee building site blaze
PUBLISHED: 16:54 25 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:23 05 October 2010
STUDENTS and construction workers fled today (Wednesday) when a blaze broke out at a building site next to a university college in East London which closed the main A13 road. The students had to quit their art and IT studies at London Metropolitan University in Whitechapel when the fire began at a seven-storey construction site off Commercial Road.Construction workers were evacuated from the blazing building as a police helicopter began circling overhead with imaging cameras searching for anyone left behind
Reporters at the scene: Julia Gregory and Tom Porter
STUDENTS and construction workers fled today (Wednesday) when a blaze broke out at a building site next to a university college in East London which closed the main A13 road.
The students had to quit their art and IT studies at London Metropolitan University in Whitechapel when the fire began at a seven-storey construction site nearby in Weyhill Road, off Commercial Road.
Some 50 workmen were evacuated from the blazing building as a police helicopter began circling overhead with imaging cameras searching for anyone who may have been left behind.
But they all got out safely and no-one was injured.
One of the workers on the top floor told the East London Advertiser: "Someone ran down from the roof where welders were working shouting 'fire'."
"We had to get out by a staircase with windows looking over the flames.
"In about two to three minutes, the whole side of the building was ablaze."
One of his workmates working on the outside of the building also had to make his way to the street with the others.
He said: "Somebody shouted 'get out of the building'-there was the smell of smoke and I heard the fire crackling above me."
The fire brought out dozens of office and shop workers along the Commercial Road, which police closed to traffic.
A worker at a bathroom fitting store opposite, Arif Gilani, who works at The Bath store opposite, said: "It was like an inferno. The fire took hold and when it got the oxygen in the air it was terrifying to see. It all went up in a minute."
Tower Hamlets councillor Oli Rahman, was working in a nearby office when he heard explosions.
He told the Advertiser: "The fire was huge. I heard loud explosions and then smoke was coming out everywhere.
"Construction workers came out and they looked pretty shocked.
"They'd been working upstairs when something went off below."
Some 50 firefighters from fire-stations across East London and south of the Thames were tackling the blaze as the flames swept up the whole side of the six-storey structure.
Crews eventually managed to get into the building at the back using breathing apparatus to get through the thick smoke.
The blaze began on the scaffolding and penetrated into the building under construction, according to initial investigations, then spread to the fourth and fifth floor of the university building next door, which houses art, IT and media studies.
The building work is being carried out by Mansell Construction, part of the Balfour Beatty Group.
The company confirmed the blaze began at 11.30am in the stairwell at the side of the building.
Workers were immediately led to safety according to the firm's own procedures and the Health and Safety Executive was informed. A full investigation is now under way into how the fire started.
The building was due to be completed next week, ready to be handed over to the Met University.
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