Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Homes evacuated after subsidence

House affected by subsidence in Broadstairs
Large cracks appeared in the houses in Victoria Road within hours

Six houses built on the site of an old chalk quarry in east Kent have been evacuated after large cracks appeared.

Fire crews were called to Victoria Road, Broadstairs, on Wednesday night after initial reports of a gas leak.

David Escudier, of Kent Fire and Rescue, said 10 people including some children had been affected. Most are now staying with friends and family.

Thanet District Council said building inspectors and structural engineers were assessing the properties.

A statement said residents who were unable to stay with friends or relatives had been found temporary accommodation by the council's housing team.

A concrete slab at the back of the house cracked and displaced about two inches
Paul Cavey

Firefighters were called to Victoria Road after cracks began appearing in the street and the semi-detached houses at about 1930 GMT.

Mr Escudier said: "It would seem that all these six houses have subsided downwards into the quarry somewhat, leaving 6cm in all the walls.

"Two of the properties were more severely affected than others... from what we saw they aren't fit to dwell in at the moment."

Paul Cavey, who was in his parents-in-law's house at the time, said they were first aware of a problem when they heard noises and saw cracks.

"We started looking round and saw some small cracks appearing by the doors and windows, and over a period of three to four hours these cracks just continued to grow and grow, and then bricks started falling out of the back of the house.

"A concrete slab at the back of the house cracked and displaced about two inches.

"We started getting stuff out of the house - some of the essentials... we informed the neighbours there was a problem, and the subsidence just went on and on.

"I've never seen anything like it in so short a period of time," he said.

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Residents, who do not know when they will be able to go home, describe having to leave with just the bare essentials



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