Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Evacuated in Flood Scare; Families Moved out over Fears Homes in Danger of Collapsing

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Evacuated in Flood Scare; Families Moved out over Fears Homes in Danger of Collapsing

Article excerpt

Byline: LIZ WALKER

DOZENS were left homeless today over fears their flood-hit flats could collapse.

A half mile stretch of contaminated water has swamped Newburn Dene in Newcastle.

At places the water is up to 30ft deep and covers some buildings including a stable block. Metres of pipes and 11 pumps are channeling water away from the spot where horses grazed until the water swamped the area when a culvert or underground tunnel burst in the early hours of Sunday.

The torrent flooded the pounds 140,000 homes in newly-built Spencer Court, where residents were woken at 5am and told to leave over fears their homes may collapse. More properties in nearby Mill Vale have also been put on alert with residents warned to look out for cracks in walls.

Yesterday people were allowed to return to collect personal possessions but as structural engineers work round the clock to get to the source of the problem, they said it is impossible to say when the flats will be safe.

City council director of technical services Mick Murphy, said: "In my 33 years of engineering I have never had to deal with a problem as big as this. We have 11 pumps working to keep the water out and it snakes back half a mile.

"We just don't know what is happening underground yet so we can't tell the full scale of the problem. As well as dealing with the water on the surface we have to try and get to the culvert to identify the problem.

"When it happened, one of our main concerns was that a major water main that supplies the city is next to the culvert and if the hole collapsed any more then that could have gone too and houses could have been washed away.

"We had 30 seconds to make a decision and we decided to get people out."

A culvert runs below Newburn Dene, Millfield Lane and Spencer Court which was built in 2006 by Dunelm Homes.

But it is believed the culvert failed to cope with Saturday night's downpour.

Council officials feared the flats' foundations might not cope and the building could be at risk of collapse.

The block is on Millfield Lane, which last month was the site of a mysterious 20ft hole which suddenly appeared.

The culvert is on land owned by Northumberland Estates, the Duke of Northumberland's business arm.

A spokeswoman said: "Northumberland Estates has been working closely with engineers from the council to on this problem since it was first reported. Both sides have been at the site many times and are busy trying both to ascertain the reason for the collapse of the culvert and find a solution as quickly as possible.

"The Northumberland Es-tates is extremely concerned for all those affected and we will continue to assist the council in their efforts to resolve the situation as quickly as possible."

A spokesperson for Dunelm Homes said: "Our hearts go out to the residents who have been affected. …

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