Children escape building collapse
Children at a Northern Ireland nursery have escaped injury after a building collapsed just metres from where they were playing.
Bricks and debris were strewn over a large area when the three-storey derelict property in Londonderry's Fountain estate fell just after 1pm on Friday. A car belonging to a pensioner was crushed but there were no reports of any injuries.
"Police in Foyle are currently in attendance at the report of an unoccupied derelict building having collapsed in the area of Kennedy Place. A car has been damaged due to falling debris; however, there are no reports of any injuries at this stage," said a spokeswoman for the PSNI.
The scene at Kennedy Place and Hawkin Street has been sealed off as police, fire crews and Derry City Council engineers carry out an investigation.
Eyewitness Albert Thompson, 85, whose car was buried under the rubble, said it was lucky no-one was hurt. He said he was alerted by a loud noise, looked outside and saw the building tumble to the ground. An adjacent property in the terrace is now also in a precarious condition and may have to be demolished.
It is believed the harsh weather conditions may have played a part in causing the collapse.
SDLP councillor John Boyle, who was on the scene minutes after the incident, said the children had a narrow escape. He said: "The Foyle daycare nursery is only yards away from the scene and it is horrifying to think of the consequences for infants and parents at drop-off and pick-up times. It is only by the grace of God that everyone in the vicinity of this collapse was uninjured."
The building was once a synagogue and is the former headquarters of the Ulster Unionist Party in Londonderry. It has been in a poor state of repair for many years.
"I work close by where there are 400 Civil Service personnel and they all park in that area. It is lucky no-one was hurt. Needless to say, the potential for a catastrophe was always there and. had it happened at school time or at the beginning or end of the working day, we may well have been dealing with fatalities and injuries," added Mr Boyle.
He has called for statutory agencies including Derry City Council and the Environment Agency to carry out a full audit of derelict buildings across Northern Ireland.