Travellers staying at a quarantine hotel next to Gatwick Airport were rushed out of their rooms and forced to huddle together in a car park after a fire alarm sparked a mass evacuation of the building.
Footage showed the guests, many of whom had arrived from red listed countries, huddled in large groups “with no social distancing” outside the four-star Sofitel on Thursday morning.
Busi Mudimu, who arrived from South Africa on Wednesday, was among dozens of passengers who fled her room after a fire alarm went off at 7.30am. She said guests had initially been instructed to stay in their rooms but large crowds started to leave the building after the alarm did not stop.
“When I went outside, people were everywhere,” she told the Standard. “All the social distancing rules went out the window. Some people didn’t have shoes or clothes.
“The whole thing was ridiculous… no one was even there to make sure we evacuated the building safely.”
Pictures posted to social media showed crowds of people, some wearing face coverings, squeezed together in white towels shivering in the 2C temperatures. Ms Mudimu claimed that guests did not make it back to their rooms for around two hours as a fire engine worked at the scene.
Members of staff from the hotel are also seen attempting to conduct a role call using a loudspeaker as guests wander around the car park.
Ms Mudimu, from Johannesburg, branded the scenes “ridiculous” after paying £2,285 to quarantine at the hotel. Travellers are strictly required to stay in their rooms at all times and not mix with other guests.
She added: “We are supposed to be the most infectious people. The whole thing is so mismanaged.
“If I was in my home I would be safer than I am here. I feel stranded.”
Pierre de Villiers, 50, a travel journalist who had arrived from Cape Town, told MailOnline that police eventually arrived at the scene and calmed everyone down.
He said: “The whole episode was a shambles - as if they hadn’t adapted their normal fire drill to allow for it being a quarantine hotel. Total chaos.”
#hotelquarantine chaos at Gatwick Sofitel with guests told to stay in their rooms during a fire alarm and then evacuated in unsafe conditions and left to stand in freezing cold. No way to treat your citizens.
— Sally Buckmaster (@SallyBuckmaster) December 9, 2021
Sally Buckmaster tweeted: “Chaos at Gatwick Sofitel with guests told to stay in their rooms during a fire alarm and then evacuated in unsafe conditions and left to stand in the freezing cold.”
The hotel lies a short distance from Gatwick Airport and is connected to the North Terminal by a walkway.
Sofitel has been contacted for comment.
A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: “Police were called after guests were evacuated from Sofitel Hotel at Gatwick due to a fire alarm around 8am this morning (9 December).
“Officers assisted with a temporary road closure to ensure the evacuated guests could be socially distanced.
“The guests were returned to the hotel shortly after 9am.”