‘We’re lucky to be alive’ say neighbours after explosives found in Rainham flat
PUBLISHED: 15:47 06 July 2015 | UPDATED: 09:26 16 July 2015
Terrified neighbours say they are “lucky to be alive” after explosives were found in a flat where a man was threatening to shoot himself.
Armed police swooped on an address in Plough Court, Broadis Way – part of Rainham’s Orchard Village estate – at about 2.15pm yesterday responding to reports of a gunman.
On arrival they found explosive devices in the flat and quickly evacuated the block.
Specialist firearm and explosive units were called in and in total between 80 and 100 officers from across London attended as the estate was locked down, leaving 300 residents stranded for most of the day.
The man, believed to be in his late 30s, was arrested on suspicion of possession of explosives and detained under the Mental Health Act. Police have said the incident is not terror related.
Next-door neighbour Donna Balbi lives with her two children, aged seven and nine.
“My children go to sleep on the other side of the wall to that flat,” she said. “We’re lucky to be alive. Who knows what would have happened?
“My son is terrified – he’s asking if we’re going to get blown up. We don’t want to live here anymore.”
The other next-door neighbours have also said they want to move.
Jamie Game, who lives with his partner Lisa Hale and son George, one, answered the door to an officer who told them to pick up what they could and leave because explosives had been found next door.
“I was petrified,” said Lisa. “I was crying – we couldn’t even get my son’s buggy.
“I want to leave now, I don’t feel comfortable and I can’t relax.”
A video taken by resident Jack Miller shows the explosives being safely destroyed by police in a nearby field at about 9pm. Residents were allowed back into their homes at 10.45pm.
Many criticised housing association Circle for a lack of support and some felt police should have also evacuated nearby blocks.
Hailey Grant, of Snowdrop Court, which directly faces the flat, said people in her block had been left like “sitting ducks” and should have been evicted.
Another said no-one had told residents what was going on and they had to rely on social media.
Posting on the MPSHavering Twitter account, officers told residents in Snowdrop and Bluebell to go to the Mardyke Community Centre, but in another message instructed them to “stay away from your windows and keep the curtains shut.”
Cllr Michael Deon Burton, who lives on the estate, asked Lesley Blowers, manager of the Mardyke Community Centre, to open up and help look after the crowd, many of them young families.
“People were annoyed they couldn’t go home, but it was a real community effort,” said Lesley.
“We had mums coming in with young children so we put on sandwiches and drinks and let people use the toilet.”
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