Residents evacuated after explosion scare

Paramedics and firefighters were on stand-by as police officers talked with the troubled man  Picture: Eddie Mitchell
Paramedics and firefighters were on stand-by as police officers talked with the troubled man Picture: Eddie Mitchell

A BLOCK of flats had to be evacuated, after a mentally-ill man barricaded himself inside and threatened to blow the building up.

Two pregnant women were among the evacuees – and both were in the flat below the scene of the incident.

Six-months pregnant Emma, 26, did not want to give her full name, but told the Herald how she feared for her safety and that of her partner Paul, 45, and her friend Zara, 26, who is four months pregnant.

“It was quite a terrifying ordeal for us residents,” she said.

“There was a lot going on. We could hear a lot of shouting from him, we couldn’t understand a word because it was so frantic.

“He was threatening to blow up the whole block of flats. He didn’t care who was in it.

“I didn’t want anything to happen to me or my friend. We didn’t want to go into early labour through stress. My partner was more calm. He was saying it’s all right he will be fine.”

Police attended the flats in Winterbourne Close, Durrington, at around 8.40pm on Saturday, after a man reported missing from a mental health facility was located alone inside a flat.

He refused to let officers in and threatened to harm them and himself.

Negotiators spent several hours trying to persuade the man to open the door, but he made further threats to cause an explosion.

Other flats at the property were evacuated as a precaution, and fire and ambulance crews stood by.

Police then forced entry to the flat. A 51-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of affray. He was later released on police bail but was detained for hospital treatment under the Mental Health Act.

No one was hurt in the incident.

According to Emma, police had visited the block of flats on Saturday morning in an attempt to locate the missing man. She said they knocked on her door and expressed concern for his welfare.

At 8pm that evening, Peter spotted the man and called the police. Initially, two units arrived at the scene and officers attempted to talk to the man.

“He was saying he had rights and barricaded himself in,” said Emma.

She added that he later began to spray chemicals, prompting officers to intervene.

At around 10pm Emma and other residents were evacuated from the flat and taken to Centenary House, in Durrington, until it was safe to return.

According to Emma, residents of a neighbouring block were evacuated an hour later and were not happy about the disturbance.

She said: “The neighbours were very unhappy with it. They said it was ridiculous and they shouldn’t have done this to us at this time.

“Once they had got him out we were still quite shaken up we were thinking did it actually happen.”

Residents returned to their homes between 2am and 3am.