The University of Leeds’ Civil Engineering Building on campus has been evacuated and cordoned off by fire services and police on three separate occasions this week following an reported leak of a ‘respiratory irritant’.
West Yorkshire Fire Service were called to the scene on both Monday and Tuesday evening. The Civil Engineering building, as well as the surrounding Mechanical and Electrical Engineering buildings, were evacuated and ventilated, but they found no harmful substances and declared the buildings safe to enter.
However, just 48 hours later, on Thursday afternoon, the Civil Engineering building had to be closed for a third time. A University spokesperson told The Gryphon: “At no time has the Fire Service detected any hazardous substance and they confirmed that the buildings were safe to re-enter, so to help us identify what may be causing the problem and as a precaution, we are cordoning off parts of Civil Engineering as we run our own investigations with specialist agencies. In the meantime, we thank staff and students for their patience.”
Luke Etheridge, a third year Civil Engineering student informed The Gryphon that, when leaving the Engineering building at 6.30pm on Monday night, he detected a “funny smell” and found out that alarms were activated soon after. A fire engine was later seen outside the building at 10.30pm.
On Tuesday, Fire Wardens, police and University staff prevented anyone from entering the building. Ambulances and paramedics arrived on site, but the university have stated that nobody was taken to hospital following the incident.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that some students didn’t take the evacuation seriously. One student, going by the name Shaz, informed The Gryphon of the “large number of students who ignored the alarm and flashing lights. 30 minutes or more after the alarm had sounded, some students were walking through Civil Engineering, risking their own and other people’s lives.”
Fortunately, the majority of students did heed the warnings and left the building in an orderly manner.
The University staff informed students that all scheduled lectures, tutorials, labs and seminars within the affected buildings had been cancelled for the rest of the day. The frustrated students then faced a long wait to retrieve their belongings. One student said: “My car and house keys are inside. It’s a nightmare.”
Students’ ability to meet deadlines have also been affected by the evacuations. Noah Segal, a second year Product Design student said: “It restricted access to computers with software we needed for coursework so deadlines got pushed back a few days.
“Also we have missed classes and this has resulted in new work not being able to be introduced, which will most likely mean pushing back more future deadlines.”
With the issue remaining unresolved, it looks like closures are set to remain in place for the near future.
(Image: Jessica Murray)