Angry residents locked out of fire-damaged Melbourne high-rise for another two weeks
The fire ran up along the outside of the building between the 22nd and 27th floors. (Supplied: MFB)
Residents will be locked out of a Melbourne high-rise apartment building for another two weeks, after it was damaged by a fire fuelled by combustible cladding on Monday.
- Jenny Zhang’s apartment was not damaged but she’s not allowed to return
- She fears her business will go into the red because she works from home
- Residents may be locked out longer unless necessary repairs are made
The City of Melbourne said the Municipal Building Surveyor imposed additional emergency measures prohibiting access to the building for another 14 days.
“It is likely that residents of the fire-affected apartments may not be able to return to their property for a longer period as extensive rectification works are required,” the city said in a statement.
A discarded cigarette ignited household items on a 22nd-floor balcony of the Neo200 apartment building on Spencer Street on Monday, causing the fire to run up the outside of the building.
Photos released by the MFB show significant damage to a 26th-floor balcony and down the side of the building.
Under a “best-case scenario”, the city said, residents would be able to re-enter the CBD building by next week, “but this is dependent on a number of factors” including repairs to “essential safety measures”.
Ms Zhang is unable to work because all of her tools are in the apartment. (Supplied: Jenny Zhang)
Resident Jenny Zhang’s 13th-floor apartment, where she lives with her partner and two cats, was not damaged in the fire.
She was angry and shocked to find out she will not be able to go home for another two weeks.
“I was personally in a bit of shock I have to admit. I stared into the wall not knowing what to do for a few minutes,” she said.
Ms Zhang works from home as a jeweller and said the lock-out would hurt her business and disrupt travel plans.
“Two weeks without any access to my tools, stock, supply. I have orders here for people in Australia, I have orders for international clients,” she said.
“By the time the two weeks is up my business will be in the red.”
The fire was sparked by a discarded cigarette in some clothes on the balcony. (Supplied: MFB)
Most residents won’t know what’s going on
Residents were being allowed to go back in to get some things before the building was due to close at 7:00pm today.
Ms Zhang is staying with friends but she said most of the residents would not know what was going on.
“I actually know a lot of the people won’t know about this opportunity [to go inside the building] because they don’t follow the news … their English isn’t very good and I’m thinking not everybody’s going to turn up,” she said.
The City of Melbourne said safety was the number one priority.
“Residents will not be able to return to the building until the building’s essential safety measures have been restored,” the City of Melbourne said in a statement.
“These include fire and emergency measures, such as smoke detection, smoke control, sprinkler systems and emergency warning systems.”
The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) expressed concern that some residents did not realise they were living in high-rise apartments with flammable cladding and did not understand the risk.
The MFB said the fire was likely fuelled by combustible cladding on the outside of the building similar to the kind of cladding used on London’s Grenfell Tower, in which 72 people died in a fire in 2017.