Merton College was forced to evacuate students from some of their first year accommodation on Thursday night, as a result of a gas leak. Merton College’s Warden, Sir Martin Taylor, was also required to temporarily relocate.
Some students were later able to move back into their rooms, although the College decided to move students from one house into other rooms for the night. These students were housed in other college-owned properties or, according to the manager, in the nearby Eastgate Hotel. The Warden was the last person to return to residence, after being given the all clear at about 4:30 on Friday.
The gas leak was reportedly detected early on Thursday, but the seriousness of the situation was not realised until later on.
Merton College told Cherwell, “We understand that the Eastgate Hotel reported the smell of gas to the National Grid; this had also been noticed by the Warden and housekeeping staff.
“Engineers attended and under their instructions we evacuated Nos. 20, 21, and 22 Merton Street, and the Warden’s Lodgings. Residents were initially allowed to return to these buildings, but after a further build-up of gas we were instructed to re-evacuate these properties; temporary accommodation was provided in vacant rooms within the college.
“We believe that some University College properties were also evacuated.”
Merton Modern Languages fresher Olivia Williams told Cherwell, “There was a gas leak – I’m pretty sure it was a burst pipe because they had to dig up the road to fix it.
“The smell of gas was taken gradually more seriously as the afternoon progressed. First there were tiny signs warning people not to smoke, and then a few hours later a whole fleet of gas vans turned up.
“The Warden spent the night in the new 750th anniversary room.”
Porter Tony Richardson explained that, “the gas vans turned up, they went up and down the street with their sniffers and determined there was a leak”.
The SGN gas network later confirmed that the gas leak had been fixed, but that Merton Street would be closed until Sunday whilst repairs were undertaken.
It is understood that a new gas main is scheduled to be laid in next summer. Merton College added,” The management of the situation by the engineers in attendance, and their communication with us, was excellent throughout.”
A Mertonian fresher told Cherwell, “It was potentially a bit of a pain, but at least I’ve got an excuse to turn next week’s essay in late now”.