Residents forced to leave Victoria Square flats over structural fears
All residents of apartments at the Victoria Square complex in Belfast city centre were last night told to vacate their homes due to a "serious structural issue".
It is understood people living in the complex received letters on Wednesday notifying them to leave their premises "immediately for safety reasons".
McGuinness Fleck estate agents said the management company had been working to resolve the issue since it was identified in February.
They said the decision to ask residents to vacate the premises "had not been taken lightly" and followed a series of structural assessments of the building.
In February people living in apartments along a damaged structural column were asked to seek alternative accommodation. It is expected the repair work will take 20 weeks to complete.
Emmet McKeown, of Johns Elliot Solicitors, which represents the Victoria Square Residential Management Company Ltd, said the decision to evacuate the building "was done at direction of structural engineers as a safety precaution".
The letter to residents said: "...due to the risk of structural movement within the building, the engineers engaged by the management company have today directed that all apartments must vacate the building immediately for safety reasons.
"We appreciate this will cause great inconvenience, but the matter is beyond the control of the management company.
"It may be the case that any alternative costs you incur until this matter is resolved may be recoverable from the parties ultimately deemed responsible for the structural damage".
The letter also said the management company was "not in a position to give any assurances about costs at this point in time".
It is understood there is no indication of damage to the shopping centre and businesses have not been affected.
SDLP Botanic representative Gary McKeown said the news will have shocked residents. "While ensuring the safety of the public is paramount, it is essential that residents are supported," he added. "I have contacted the company seeking assurances that residents will get all the assistance they need."