‘I woke up in an empty building’
A Mascot Towers resident has told of his horror on Saturday morning when he awoke to discover the entire complex deserted after firefighters evacuated everybody except him.
Andy Ang told news.com.au he felt scared, confused and alone after authorities failed to check his apartment, leaving him to sleep as everybody else fled.
News of the shocking oversight comes as another resident revealed how "Mascot Towers shook" during construction of a neighbouring apartment block, which was completed last month.
Residents from all 131 units of the two-tower, Church Ave complex at Mascot near Sydney Airport were urgently evacuated overnight after a "large crack" suddenly appeared in the "slab beams in the primary building corner", raising concerns of an impending collapse.
Police cordoned off the area and fire trucks parked outside as state engineers inspected the property and firefighters made their way through the complex evacuating occupants in scenes eerily similar to the Opal Tower debacle.
Everyone made it out except for Mr Ang, who lives in unit 8 on the second floor and woke at 5.30am to find he had been bombarded with text messages from friends worried for his safety.
"I gone to bed really early, like 7pm, and when I woke up this morning I had all these missed calls from friends and messages asking where I was (and) if I was ok," he told news.com.au.
"Then I realised I was the only person left in the whole building and everyone else had been evacuated.
"I mean what if the building had collapsed around me? I would have been left inside and nobody would have known."
Some mates had even texted dramatic photographs of fire engines clustered outside the complex.
"It's kind of funny but it's also pretty scary and disappointing," Mr Ang told news.com.au this morning from Sydney Airport MacDonalds, where he has sought refuge.
"The security guy said to me: 'Why are you in the building? Everyone has been evacuated!'
"Then I saw the Fire and Rescue evacuation notice and noticed my unit was not on the list at all but then I was told all units, whether they were on the list or not, had to be evacuated, so there was a lot of confusion.
"They would have knocked on my unit and gotten no answer and then left without checking.
In an emergency they are supposed to have spares keys that open all the units so they can go in and check there's nobody inside but that didn't happen.
"If the building had actually collapsed around me, nobody would have known I was inside. It's pretty disappointing."
After having been alerted to the oversight by news.com.au this morning, NSW Fire and Rescue Superintendent Adam Dewberry said at no point was Mr Ang in danger.
"The firefighters went knocking from door to door and for whatever reason it looks like this fellow has slept through it," he said.
"At no time was he in danger of the building collapsing. If there had been an immediate risk of the building collapsing there would have been forced entry into all the units, including his to make sure everyone was evacuated.
"Quite a lot of these apartments are empty because they are investments or Airbnb properties
and police and firefighters have been able to get everybody out except for this one person who has been left behind. It is what it is."
Supt Dewberry said there were no accurate figures on how many residents were affected since many apartments were used by airline cabin crews due to the complex's proximity to the airport.
He said "there was talk about leaving 35 apartments habitable" before deciding it was best to evacuate all 131 units in both towers, because access to the complex would have been compromised with shared spaces such as lobbies cordoned off.
"They've been monitoring this building for a period of time but yesterday there was a bit more movement than they were comfortable with," Supt Dewberry said.
"They'd identified cracks which had developed in some parts of the building and were watching them and treating them but then a large crack appeared in the last 24 hours and that's when they thought: 'we need to to take a little bit more action here'."
"MASCOT TOWERS SHOOK"
Many residents have been left furious and traumatised by Friday night's drama, with some alleging poor communication between the building manager and strata had resulted in them being left in the dark about long-running structural concerns.
At least some of those problems were allegedly caused by construction of another large apartment complex on Church Ave which started in January 2018 and finished just last month.
"The new Church St (sic) development shook Mascot Towers when being built," one unit owner, who has lived there since 2008 but did not want to be identified for this story, told news.com.au.
"They were warned about it causing structural damage. There was huge resistance about this development being allowed to proceed but the council and government gave it the green light, barely any questions asked.
"The land is tiny for the size of this development and basically squeezing Mascot Towers. This is a disgrace and I blame them for turning minor defects into major ones.
"I am in a very worried, stressed and concerned state right now and really hope that somebody can get to the bottom of this! I hope this can help in any way.
"I do not want to see anyone else go through the same as here and what happened at Opal."
An alarming strata notice put up in the lobby of Mascot Towers this month warns residents about the "installation of temporary building propping in the carpark".
"This is in response to an ongoing and persistent cracking and structural deformation observed within the primary support structure and the facade masonry," the notice, from Strata Choice, states.
"This deterioration has been rapid, hence expedited propping was deemed a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of the building and its occupants."
The property owner said the authorities responsible for the building were notoriously bad at talking to each other, resulting in confusion among residents.
"The strata manager and building manager have been extremely poor in communications," he said in an email to news.com.au
"Last month at the strata meeting, plans were made to repair the building defects late this year in September or October.
"Two or three weeks ago we were notified that some people may lose their car spot. There was no support or sympathy offered for this. Basically too bad, tough luck, not our responsibility, cannot use visitor car park as the council own these!
"On late Thursday afternoon, here was a notice in the lift saying urgent car park propping to commence. Be prepared to evacuate. No one was contacted, so too bad if you were out for the night.
"Friday afternoon (yesterday) I was in the lift and asked a construction worker what was going on. He said 60% chance EVERYONE needs to evacuate, I asked how would we know, he replied oh you'll know, the fire alarm will go off and the police will be here with the fire brigade!
"I asked the building manager and he said the same with no idea what else would happen."
News.com.au has contacted both the building management and Strata Choice for comment.
Residents do not appear to have taken advantage of temporary accommodation at Mascot Town Hall, either because they were unaware of it or found other alternatives.
It is understood some are staying with friends and family have found rooms in local hotels.
Mr Ang said he had found lodging through Airbnb while others are have been staying at the nearby Meriton Serviced apartments.