Dozens of people were forced to flee a west London street in the early hours yesterday after a mansion owned by a Hollywood film executive’s family collapsed during building work to extend the basement.
Neighbours told The Telegraph that they heard a bang “as loud as thunder” and a “loud crash” before running outside to discover that the large mid-terraced house in Chelsea had been completely destroyed.
An unnamed witness said: “We were still up and just heard a huge crash. We ran outside and the building next door had disappeared. We knew it was empty but called the police. Lots of police and ambulances turned up, but no one was injured. A few hours later and there would have been ten to 15 builders inside.”
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Another neighbour in the exclusive district said that “the roof has just collapsed inwards and taken down the whole of the inside”.
The London Fire Brigade evacuated dozens of people from surrounding properties early on Tuesday morning following the collapse of the mansion, described by some news outlets as two houses.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said building work was taking place after planning permission was granted for a three-metre extension to the lower ground basement of the house, along with a new upper terrace.
Richard Anooshian, of the South Kensington Residents Association and Onslow Square Residents Association, said: “Whenever you hear there’s a basement being built you have to ask, is this a smart thing to do? Can they handle it? You hear stories of them collapsing and it just makes us sad.”
As the Daily Mail notes, the area “is home to a number of celebrities, including Mick Jagger and Roman Abramovich, and boasts some of the capital’s highest property prices”.
The collapsed property belonged to the family of late film executive Arthur Abeles and was worth between £6m and £8.5m, according to reports.
Born in New York, Abeles moved to London in 1947 after becoming head of Warner Bros in Europe and went on to found United International Pictures in the late 1960s. He died in May 2000.
The ruined house had been owned by his widow, Audrey, who died earlier this year, and her two children, but was being refurbished on behalf of British Virgin Islands-based firm Seabrook Properties.
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