On This Day: Five killed as East End tower block collapses

On This Day: Five killed as East End tower block collapses

May 16: Five people died after a gas blast caused an east London tower block to collapse on this day in 1968 – sparking a major backlash against high-rise council flats.

Four women and one man were killed and 17 were injured after a corner of the shoddily built, 22-storey Ronan Point unit crumbled two months after completion.

Incredibly, 56-year-old cake decorator Ivy Hodge, who triggered the explosion when she lit the stove in her 18th floor flat, survived the collapse in Canning Town.

She was treated in hospital for shock, cuts and second-degree burns on her face and arms following the 5.45am blast.

[Fascinating footage gives rare colour insight into London in 1927]

British Pathé footage shows the sheer scale of the disaster, with the outer corner walls completely ripped off and concrete floor panels hanging precariously.

Rescue workers are also seen digging at the base in search of survivors.

The death toll might have been worse if eight of the 110 flats had not been empty at the time.

A public inquiry later concluded that the building - which like hundreds of other tower blocks in Britain was built with prefabricated panels - was structurally unsound.

Legislation was enacted to ensure future buildings would be stronger and existing flats protected.
But - along concerns over social problems blamed on high-rise living – safety fears persisted and local authorities across the country began knocking down their towers.

In 1986, the London Borough of Newham demolished Ronan Point and eight other blocks on the estate – containing 900 flats - and replaced them with 20 two-storey houses.

Under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, council tenants were given the right to buy their homes and authorities were banned from subsiding new buildings.

Today, high-rise living is increasingly associated with privately owned luxury flats rather than poor-quality social housing, which rapidly declined after the 1980s.

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