Emergency evacuation

Stan Laundon.
Stan Laundon.

DOZENS of people sought refuge at the Sir William Gray Suite at Hartlepool Maritime Experience as an emergency plan was put into action.

The venue was transformed into a rest centre for residents of Navigation Point after the block was emptied and cordoned off by police.

Hartlepool Borough Council said 85 people registered in the centre to keep up to date with developments, get health checks and have somewhere to sit with refreshments.

The council also worked to get people alternative accommodation and arranged to have 28 residents housed in hotels.

Alastair Smith, who is part of the council’s emergency response team, said: “Once we were informed of the evacuation of Navigation Point and surrounding areas, we very quickly established a rest centre nearby at Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience ensuring there was a base for residents to go where they could get help and advice.

“For residents who were unable to be accommodated overnight with family and friends, arrangements were made for 28 people to stay in local hotels in Hartlepool and surrounding areas.

“The council also established a stand-by overnight rest centre at Mill House Leisure Centre to accommodate more people should it be required.

“At around 10.30pm we were given the all-clear from the police to allow residents back into their properties. We therefore made attempts to contact residents and give them the option as to whether they wanted to return late at night or wait until the following morning.

“I must say that residents have been extremely understanding and we have done our best to support them during this period of uncertainty having no access to their homes.”

Retired radio presenter Stan Laundon, 67, was evacuated to the centre along with his wife Karen, 67, from their flat at noon yesterday.

Stan, who is retired after 25 years working with the BBC, said: “We were given wristbands so they know we are registered and residents of Navigation Point.

“We had all been told to go to Mandale House, but then told the Historic Quay. It was well organised as they took our contact details so they can alert us to any changes.

“They had coffee and tea and games for children.

“There were plenty of people there, but then a lot of people would have been at work and will be coming home to find they can’t get in their own homes.

“We decided that we’d head off to Billingham and get out of the way of it all.”

Fintan Wardell, 43, was in bed during a day off when police knocked on his door.

The support worker said: “I didn’t expect anyone so I didn’t answer.

“I got up and had a bath and left at 11am only to find everything cordoned off. I was quite embarrassed by it all.

“But at least I managed to have a wash as I know many other people didn’t have time.

“It all seems very precautionary and there is a fairly good atmosphere among everyone. But it’s important to remember someone has died in all of this.”