High-rise flat block in Sydney evacuated after residents report hearing ‘cracking noises’

  • More than 3,000 people living in or near the 36-storey Opal Tower in the city’s Olympic Park were told to leave the area
PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 6:59pm

More than 3,000 people living in or near a 36-storey block of flats at Sydney’s Olympic Park were evacuated on Monday after residents reported hearing cracking noises.

Firefighters and engineers were expected to enter the Opal Tower complex late on Monday to examine what caused the reported cracks on its 10th floor and to determine whether the building is in danger of collapse.

“It’s not going to be done in minutes. Hopefully it won’t take longer than hours,” Fire and Rescue Acting Inspector Greg Wright told reporters.

Experts using sensitive monitoring equipment determined that the US$165 million building, completed in August, had moved between 1 and 2 millimetres, according to police Detective Superintendent Philip Rogerson.

Police reportedly had to use heavy equipment to force open doors to allow residents to escape. An exclusion zone with a radius of 1 kilometre was established around the building, forcing the evacuation of neighbouring buildings and the closure of roads and a railway station.

New South Wales police said in a statement that the alarm was raised by residents who reported hearing “cracking noises” throughout the morning.

The tower, which looms over the central site of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has 392 flats, a retail area and a childcare centre. Water and gas services were shut off and the tower was being isolated from the power grid, Wright said.

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Meriton, the operator of the neighbouring building, said in an email to residents that there was “potential for the tower to collapse.”

A resident of the Opal Tower told the Nine News network he heard a loud bang as if something in the building had “snapped.” Another resident told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation there were cracks on the building’s 12th and 13th floors.

“I’m concerned, of course,” he said. “A few days ago the doors looked different, like they couldn’t close properly. And you do feel (movement) sometimes when there’s strong wind.”

Residents from Opal Tower and surrounding properties had been taken to an evacuation centre and it was not clear if or when they would be able to return to their homes.

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