Dozens of Opal Tower residents could be homeless until New Years with their apartments deemed too dangerous to return to.
More than 200 residents of the 38-storey Sydney Olympic Park high rise were evacuated on Monday afternoon along with more than 3,000 from nearby buildings.
Most of them were allowed to return to their homes after 12.30am on Tuesday but a huge crack in an internal wall meant 51 of the 392 units were still unsafe.
Some Opal Tower residents were allowed to return home just after midnight on Christmas Eve
NSW Fire Service Superintendent Adam Dewberry said those apartments would be off limits for days to come, but didn’t know how long.
‘It’s not as if it’s going to be tomorrow or the next day because there needs to be an element of work done,’ he said.
‘Now it’s just how quickly that work can be done by the engineers to get in and get a really good thorough assessment.’
The 117m tower was evacuated after some residents fled about 2.45pm after hearing a cracking noise and a huge crack opened up.
The operator of the nearby Botania tower also told its residents in an email: ‘there is a potential for the tower to collapse, a 1km radius has been evacuated’.
Affected Opal Tower residents were escorted by emergency services to their unsafe units to collect their possessions before relocating to alternative accommodation
They were forced to leave amidst fears the 34-storey high-rise building could collapse
A shocking photo from inside the building showed a plaster wall collapsed in a heap and a crack down the length of the wall. Yellow tape was on the door handle.
Some residents said the doors to the building were jammed and police had to break them down with heavy equipment to help residents escape.
Public Works engineers found the tower had moved one to two millimetres, causing the huge crack centred around level 10 – where residents heard the sound.
The NSW Government will now urgently investigate ‘what steps were taken to ensure the structural integrity of that building and other buildings at Olympic Park’
A spokesman for Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said he was ‘very concerned about the situation with the Opal Tower’.
‘Obviously his first concern is the safety of the residents,’ he said.
‘He wants to assure the affected residents that this matter is being treated with extreme urgency.’
handful of residents were left to sleep on the concrete ground in a temporary shelter at the nearby Royal Agricultural Society
People sat on what few chairs were available and if they were lucky, used a table to eat or play cards on Christmas Eve night
Some residents who were allowed to return home refused to ever go back, packing up their essential belongings and getting accommodation elsewhere.
Chris Abram, who lives on the 20th floor, came back to grab his two cats, Salt and Pepper, and take them and his valuables to his mother’s house.
‘I’m going to be moving, that’s for sure. I don’t want to spend a second in there that I don’t have to. I don’t want to die. I wouldn’t feel safe sleeping there,’ he told 9 News.
British tourists Leon and Fiona Senior and their family booked an apartment in the tower for a family holiday in Sydney.
Instead they ended up sitting on a concrete floor in the Royal Agricultural Society nearby among more than 100 others.
‘Even if it is safe we’re not going to be sleeping there,’ Ms Senior told the
‘How can you sleep in there thinking the building might collapse? You wouldn’t be able to rest.
Residents of the impacted units were escorted back to gather their belongings
A notice placed on the door of one of the 51 units deemed unsafe by Public Works engineers
Emergency crews remained on the scene late on Christmas Ever, amid fears it may collapse
Mr Senior said the family wouldn’t even go in to pick up their, passports, clothes, luggage, hire car, and Christmas presents until it was safe.
Another tourist, Narissa Knight from New Zealand, was forced to evacuate in just her bikini as she was in the pool when police evacuated the tower.
‘We couldn’t get anything, I was there in my bikini and no shoes on, nothing,’ she told the
‘I was walking through the mall and I’m like oh my god, I had my towel around me. It was so embarrassing.’
A resident named Yogi was stuck at the makeshift crisis centre until almost 1am and though his apartment is safe he wanted to break his 12-month lease.
‘It definitely has taken that Christmas spirit away. I do have a long lease but after last night’s events I won’t be staying there long term,’ he said.
Those who couldn’t immediately call friends or book hotels spent Christmas Eve on a concrete floor in the hastily-arranged crisis centre.
Some residents made alternative living arrangements after 51 units were declared unsafe
About 100 people were stranded in a temporary shelter at the nearby Royal Agricultural Society building as they waited for the all clear from authorities
Many claimed they were left in the dark, having received no information from emergency crews about when they might be able to return home.
‘We’ve been told nothing. We don’t know how long we will be stuck here, maybe until tomorrow,’ one group told Daily Mail Australia.
Another family had enough and set out on foot towards hotel rooms they booked last minute on their phones.
‘We weren’t even in the tower, we live nearby and just know what’s on the news. It’s very frustrating,’ they said.
People sat on what few chairs were available and if they were lucky, used a table to eat or play cards.
One group somehow found a couch and one of them took a nap on it curled up under a blanket, but others had to sit on the hard floor.
Salvation Army volunteers brewed tea and coffee and handed out basic food to the residents well into the night.
Firefighter search and rescue teams and public works engineer assessed the 34-storey building after a huge crack was found in its structure
More than 3,000 people in nearby buildings were also told to leave and those coming home were not allowed back inside
Finally, about 12.30am, those not in the 51 affected units were allowed home and the rest escorted back to gather their belongings.
NSW Police Detective Superintendent Philip Rogerson said the building, which was only completed in March and opened in August, had moved one to two millimetres.
The cause of the fault in the building which was completed in March and opened in August was still unknown, as planning experts slammed the developer.
Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said the cracks were ‘staggering’, given the building was essentially brand new.
‘It’s a bit bewildering to me that something like this could happen. Buildings like that go through all sorts of checks and balances,’ he told the
The tower was being monitored with specialist laser monitoring equipment to detect any movement, but none had been recorded since the crack opened.
Police and firefighters stand guard outside the exclusion zone they set up to keep people away
Fire crews shut off the water and gas and took the building off the power grid while police taped off a 250m radius.
Fire & Rescue NSW Urban Search and Rescue officers and specialist engineers, as well as the building’s designers and managers, worked late into the night to assess the building.
NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Julie Boon said ‘an internal support wall’, which spans the whole height of the tower, failed.
‘It’s been a particularly frustrating time for residents and we’re very aware they are keen to go home the night before Christmas,’ she said.
‘This is a large building and it’s critical the safety of the residents comes first.’
Superintendent Dewberry said the strata manager would be working with the insurer and builders to fix the issue.
Police said an emergency services operation was underway after concerns were raised for the structural integrity of the 34-storey Opal Tower (pictured) at Sydney Olympic Park
The park many residents were forced out into until they were herded to the crisis centre
Opal Tower is only months old
The 117m Opal tower has 392 apartments over 34 storeys along with a childcare centre and other businesses and amenities.
Brand new high rise was built alongside numerous other similar blocks in Olympic Park as it transforms into a major population centre.
The building was only completed in March and opened in August, and cost $165 million to build by developer Ecove, which built many of the others nearby.
Two-bedroom apartments are on sale for $934,000 and one bedrooms for $620,000.
Opal Tower is one of several new apartment towers in Olympic Park and cost $165 million to build.
It was developed by Ecove, which also built many other new towers in the suburb along with One30 Hyde Park tower in the Sydney CBD.
Two-bedroom apartments are on sale for $934,000 and one bedrooms for $620,000.
‘We are deeply sympathetic for the concern and anxiety of residents and owners and are actively following up the builder and the builder’s engineers to hopefully provide residents and owners with further information,’ Ecove said.
The tower was designed by architecture firm Bates Smart and built by Icon Construction.
A resident stands on her balcony as evacuations began. She was one of about 140 who left the building under police orders
Residents milled around outside the building on Monday afternoon, asking police about when they will be able to go back inside