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Ilford City Gates building collapse: 19-year-old’s lucky escape from parked car

PUBLISHED: 09:19 01 February 2012 | UPDATED: 15:39 01 February 2012

The collapsed City Gates Christian centre had its topping out ceremony last week. Picture by Paul Bennett

The collapsed City Gates Christian centre had its topping out ceremony last week. Picture by Paul Bennett

Archant

A 19-year-old made a lucky escape from a parked car in Clements Road just yards from the City Gates building as it collapsed yesterday.

Young mum Kiran Naz, 25, spoke of her fear for her brother, Waqar Khan, who was able to jump out of the car as debris, including bricks and metal poles, rained down on it.

She witnessed the scene as she walked back along Clements Road with her mother and her 18-month-old daughter to meet Mr Khan following a shopping trip.

Mrs Naz, of Canning Town, said: “My brother got really scared and jumped out the front passenger door. He was really terrified.

“It was shocking to see the building collapse and I was worried about him.”

“The building fell towards one side.

“It just tumbled and there was a lot of noise.”

Mr Khan was able to escape without injury from the car, a Vauxhall Astra belonging to Mrs Naz, parked next to Redbridge Council’s Housing Advice Centre.

His family was moved back towards the Ilford High Road shops.

Mrs Naz said: “My mother got really scared and ran to the car regardless of being told to stay back to see that my brother was fine.

“If he’d got out the driver’s side, he could have been hurt.”

The car was severely dented and was left with a bullet-size hole in the front driver door.

A number of buildings in Clements Road remain closed today including the Ilford Travelodge, the Virgin Active gym, Redbridge CVS in the Forest House building and Redbridge Council’s housing advice centre and payments and benefits office.

Motorists will have to wait until further notice to return to their vehicles in the Britannia car park and the Town Hall car park is also closed.

The steel frame of what remains of the collapsed City Gates Christian centre will be demolished.

The five-storey structure in Clements Road, Ilford collapsed at around 4.30pm yesterday.

Remarkably the only injury was a twisted ankle.

Contractors Ashe Construction and Health and Safety Executive officers are both at the scene today.

A crane which hangs over the collapsed building will also be dismantled.

Ashe Construction’s business development director Andrew Morris said “I apologise for the disruption and I ask people to bear with us as we formulate a recovery plan.

“Work stopped at the site about 15 to 20 minutes before [the collapse].

“Thankfully most of the guys had left the site. A few were left within the site set up but no one was injured.”

He said it was not unusual for staff to have clocked off just after 4pm because of the reduced light levels.

He added: “This type of thing doesn’t normally happen to us. We’re as shocked as everyone else.

“It would be inappropriate to speculate on what caused the collapse.”

Eyewitnesses have said it was a “miracle” no one was killed following the collapse of the building.

All 22 workers on site were quickly accounted for following the collapse and no one was found inside the wreckage.

A man who said he worked on the site described it as a “well run and organised site with a good safety record.”

Another man, who said he worked in Clements Road but declined to give his name, said it was “a miracle” no was killed, adding: “They’re usually working at the site well after 4pm so it’s so lucky no one was there.”

With a section of Clements Road still closed, the slip road into Ilford, off the A406, was left in a virtual standstill of traffic this morning, with many of the roads around Ilford Town Centre similarly congested.

A small section of Ilford Hill has also been coned off, forcing drivers to merge into one lane to clear the scene.

It is not known if this is connected in any way with the collapse.

London Fire Brigade’s specialist urban search and rescue crews were called to a the scene at about 4.30pm yesterday.

A spokesman added: “Crews used specially trained dogs to complete a systematic search of the area and were able to confirm that no-one else was involved in the incident, although one passer-by was treated for shock by London Ambulance Service.

“A crane on the site was left in a precarious position after the building collapsed and 60 metre safety cordon was established. Surrounding buildings have been evacuated as a precaution, including a hotel with around 20 guests.”

Eyewitnesses have described the moment the structure crashed to the ground as sounding like “thunder”.

Mick Pandher, 36, of Ilford, said the building fell “as though it was being demolished”.

He told the Recorder: “I looked towards the building and I thought it was a thunder storm at first.

“Seconds later, I saw the whole building going to the floor.

“It was very sudden. It was like when you see a building being demolished. It came down in a straight line.”

Fifteen bus routes are being diverted following the incident.

A Transport for London spokesman said: “The bus routes on diversion around Clements Road are the 25, 86, 123, 128, 145, 147, 150, 167, 169, 179, 296, 364, 366, 462 and the W19.”

Have you witnessed what is happening in Clements Road? Do you have pictures from the scene? Call us on 020 8477 3806, email zjan.shirinian@archant.co.uk or Tweet us @ilfordrecorder.


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