Rough sleepers living in Ilford swimming pool building

Rough sleepers have been living inside the building of a disused swimming pool in Ilford, which on Monday was engulfed in gas in a scare which could have killed those inside.

Bedding has been found abandoned within the grounds of Ilford Baths, High Road, Ilford, which has sat supposedly empty for more than three years.

At least two rough sleepers were seen walking out of the building as gas spewed out of a pipe which had fractured.

A nearby office was evacuated and drinkers at The Cauliflower pub were asked to leave as firefighters and police reacted to the possibility of an explosion.

The gas leak was discovered during an inspection of the area by Vision Redbridge following reports of a damaged board, used to cover the outside of the building.

And it has emerged reports of people sleeping inside the building have been made to Redbridge Council on numerous occasions in the past.

As the gas scare was dealt with by more than 40 firefighters, police and the National Grid, a cordon was erected from Elizabeth Avenue, Ilford, to Aldborough Road South, Seven Kings.

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Fire chiefs said the high amount of gas pouring out of the pipe could have been enough to spark a potentially fatal explosion.

Watch manager Nigel McCormick said: “We had to make sure that the levels of gas were safe – below explosive or flammable limits.

“Most of it is precautionary but we had to have a cordon to create a safe zone.”

Employees in the nearby Recorder office were asked to stay away from the side of the building facing High Road.

Mr McCormick added the building was ventilated.

The road was re-opened to cars and pedestrians at just after 2pm on Monday.

Redbridge Police are not investigating any crime.

A spokesman for Redbridge Council said: “Routine site inspections are undertaken to maintain the security of the building and to deal with any unauthorised entry by rough sleepers.”