TERRIFIED residents have told of the moment a second-storey walkway at a block of flats collapsed beneath their feet.
Council tenants from the block at Newby Place, Mereside, were lucky to escape with their lives when the ageing balcony crashed inwards, pulling with it a gas main which spouted deadly flammable gas into the air.
Firefighters had to rescue five distressed residents from the upper floors, using a ladder to get past the teetering debris. The officers also lifted a cat and a dog to safety.
Resident Andrew Bleasdale today revealed how he was fortunate to be alive after the metal and concrete structure ripped itself from the wall as he was entering his flat.
The 41-year-old told The Gazette: “I’m amazed nobody has been killed.
“I’d been out shopping and was standing on the balcony unlocking my door when I felt it disappearing from under my feet.
“I had to jump into my flat to safety as it crashed down underneath me. Had it been seconds later I might have been killed.
“I have seen the brackets coming lose for ages and warned the housing office loads of times, but our warnings have just been ignored.”
Tearful neighbour Denise McGee, 49, was left traumatised by the incident and was struggling to contain her emotions.
She said: “I was standing on the balcony minutes before it crashed down, I could have been crushed.
“On Monday, when the sun was out, everybody was on their balconies, I was leaning over talking to neighbours below.
“It makes me sick to think about what could have happened, we could all have been killed. I can’t believe it’s been left to rot like this, they’ve gambled with our safety.”
In total 26 people were evacuated from the nine flats after the incident at around 1.30pm yesterday and the Tarnside Day Centre was opened to accommodate residents who were left dazed and in shock.
Nearby properties were also cleared as firefighters worked with an engineer to isolate the damaged gas main and make the area safe.
Tenants who could not safely return home were housed in a nearby hostel or made arrangements to stay with relatives or friends overnight.
Meanwhile engineers installed heavy duty props at neighbouring blocks of flats to help ensure the safety of other residents.
Blackpool Fire Station crew manager Johnny Nottingham said: “We rescued five people and some pets using the ladders.
“Many of them were elderly so they were panicking a bit but everybody was evacuated safety.
“One resident said he heard a noise as he closed his front door and when he opened it to see what had happened his balcony had disappeared.
“It is lucky nobody was hurt.”
The incident came as no surprise to tenant Tony Watts, 45.
He said: “People have been complaining about the state of these flats for ages, we are always just fobbed off. I’m not surprised this has happened, just that it hasn’t happened earlier.
“The concrete was secured just with a metal bracket, that’s the whole mentality in this place, just a crude patch up.
“I hope we get answers now about why our concerns were ignored.”
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said the authority would launch a full inquiry.
He added: “An incident occurred at a block of flats on Mereside in which thankfully nobody has been injured.
“We are working to make sure that housing provisions are made for all the residents who have been evacuated and an investigation into how this has happened will take place.”
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