An alleged arson attack on an asbestos-insulated building has led to an evacuation of Derwent D-block.
Students were ordered from the building after a suspected arson attack caused an explosion and subsequent fire in the adjacent storage buildings.
The smoke from the building, which is insulated by asbestos, is potentially harmful to any who ingests it. Students have been advised to close their doors and windows in order to keep the fumes out.
Suspected particle tests for asbestos are currently being carried out in the block, while residents have been unable to return to their rooms.
Derwent porters have confirmed that arson is suspected, and that a number of youths seen riding away on bikes on the CCTV cameras were thought to be responsible for the fire. CCTV footage of both Derwent and Langwith is being examined by campus security.
A member of security staff was heard to say: “If you look [at the CCTV recording], you will see our little friends running away. It started with a bang, so they must have had something to chuck.”
A member of the security services posted outside the remnants of the building said: “The building has been checked, the gas is safe, the buliding is as good as it’s going to get till the morning. We will stay here all night to make sure it doesnt go up again. You know what hot spots are like”
Firemen have entered the building to assess the damage.
Sue Johnston, Head of Campus Services, who had earlier reported the danger of gas canisters being damaged in the fire, told residents: “We’re really sorry what’s happened. Go back to your rooms in 20 minutes, the fire brigade will come back in morning.” She also reminded residents to keep their windows closed due to the smoke.
Derwent Provost Ron Weir has addressed D-Block residents, and has reportedly offered to buy them all a drink.
The fire was discovered at approximately 9pm by Jenny Herdmen, a former student porter, in a building used to house refuse bins and recyclable materials next to Derwent D block. Residents reported a a loud explosion and ran outside to see the shed aflame.
A second larger explosion rang out at 9.07, and the flames grew quickly to a height twice that of the building. Derwent D block was evacuated immediately and the fire brigade were called. Around 65 students are resident of the block.
Charlotte Ward-Caddle, a first year Derwent C Block resident stated: “As my friend called the emergency services, we ran downstairs. Within seconds, the flames were as big as D Block.”
As the fire grew, increasingly larger numbers gathered round, as word spread through Derwent bar, which was busier than normal due to the European Champions League Final. Within moments at least half a dozen porters appeared on the scene, along with Weir. Weir said: “We don’t know what happened at the moment.” Cars that were parked next to the building were quickly removed.
Lauren Watters, first year Derwent D block resident, said “We were all sitting in the kitchen, we heard a bang. When we looked out of the window, the bins and bike shed were completely set alight.”
No Derwent students are thought to have been hurt in the fire.
More to follow…