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1968: Three die as tower block collapses

VIDEO : Interviews with survivors and rescuers

Two women and a man have been killed after an entire corner of a new block of flats in London's East End came crashing down at dawn.

Eleven of the 260 residents are injured and one woman is still missing.

The Home Secretary, James Callaghan, has visited the site and ordered a team of experts to report to him by tomorrow on the possible causes of the disaster.

Part of the block, called Ronan Point, in Newham in the heart of London's docklands area collapsed just before 0600 BST.

Gas explosion

About 80 families fled their homes, many of them in their nightclothes.

The lifts had stopped working and they had to run down several flights of stairs - some holding their children.

It is believed there was a gas explosion on the 18th floor which ripped through four flats above and sent all the floors below crashing down like falling dominoes.

Volunteers gave out food and clothing at an emergency clearing station in a local school, while police cordoned off the area in the search for survivors.

Local stevedores and dockers are at the site to help clear the rubble as doctors and nurses treat the injured.

The building has been occupied for just two months. It was one of four blocks built by Taylor Woodrow Anglian, awarded the contract by Newham council.

Geoffrey Davies, managing director of the company, denied the collapse may have been caused by the structure of the building itself.

The disaster is thought to have started in the flat of 56-year-old cake decorator Ivy Hodge, who is now in hospital suffering from burns.

She told reporters she remembered getting up to put the kettle on, "Then I found myself on the floor".

There are now serious doubts about the safety of the system-built building and many of the families made homeless by the incident are insisting they must be rehoused.

"I wouldn't live there rent-free," said one tenant who was offered temporary accommodation with her neighbours.

In Context
One woman was found dead in the rubble the following day and another died later from her injuries.

A public inquiry into the collapse in August 1968 concluded that a gas explosion had triggered the collapse of a building that was structurally unsound. It had been "system-built" using prefabricated concrete panels bolted together like a giant meccano set.

As a result new British Standard Structural Design Codes for concrete were introduced to prevent such a disaster happening again.

Ronan Point was soon rebuilt but the incident led to a major backlash against high-rise blocks of flats - put up in haste to resolve the post-war housing. It was knocked down in 1986 and replaced with low-level terraced houses.

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