QUICK-THINKING council engineers in Hastings this week evacuated a block of 12 flats in the town just hours before they partially collapsed.
The engineers had responded to earlier reports from a ground floor resident of hearing bricks falling from the five-storey Victorian building. A visual inspection revealed severe cracking and bulging on the southern side of the block and the engineers immediately used their powers of emergency evacuation under the dangerous structures section of the Building Act.
Soon afterwards the lower section of the wall kicked outwards and a quarter of the block collapsed. Hastings Borough Council structural engineer Tim Chapman said: 'We went through the decision of whether to try to prop or shore the building but felt that it would cause more damage.
'In the event there would have been men working on the building when it collapsed if we had gone down that route.'
He went on: 'This was an old building with cracks but my impression was that it wasn't run down and it certainly wasn't the worst on the street.'
The council is understood to have warned the block's managing agent to carry out structural inspections in May. The agent's Hastings-based structural engineer E A R Shepherd said investigations into the collapse had begun on Friday, but as the rest of the building had continued to move over the weekend it would have to be demolished.
E A R Shepherd partner Roger Bunny confirmed that subsidence was one of the prime suspects. A more modern block of flats close by has also been evacuated as a precaution.