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Element apartments evacuated due to flooding from water main break

Element apartments evacuated.png
Posted at 8:20 AM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 05:06:25-04

TAMPA, Fla. — An apartment complex in Tampa was evacuated early Friday morning due to flooding from a water main break, according to fire rescue officials.

Evacuations started just after 5 a.m. at Element in Tampa. The 35-floor complex is located at 808 N. Franklin Street.

According to fire rescue, the call came in at 3:20 a.m. as a general fire alarm. The break was in two places, on the 27th and 12th floors. Officials say there's no damage above the 27th floor.

Several residents took videos of water gushing down the hallway and into the stairwells. They say water was entering their apartments from not just under the doorway but from the ceiling through light sockets and even electrical outlets.

Brandon Gelfen got to the stairwell and realized the alarm was not a drill.

“That’s when I kind of realized it was a big deal because water was flowing down, people were getting soaked, and it was mayhem. A lot of people were freaking out carrying their pets," he said.

Gelfen says people were panicked and confused. Someone who lives on the 12th floor said it looked like a waterfall pouring from the ceiling right outside their front door. Many residents immediately began thinking about the tragedy in Surfside.

I started worrying thinking this was another Miami situation, so heart started racing and all of that. People were freaking out," Gelfen said.

“We were just scared at first with everything that happened in Miami with that building," said Nick Abbott. "I think everyone was a little worried and everyone got out of there thinking the building might come down, it’s such a big building 35 floors.”

That panic subsided once everyone was evacuated, and Tampa Fire Rescue told residents what they believe happened. And, while the complex has extensive water damage, apartment management sent an e-mail to residents assuring them, "that in no way does this flooding threaten the structural integrity of the building”

“The only thing that I’m worried about is my cat," said Elizabeth Cahill. "I don’t really have anything in there that can’t be replaced at the end of the day. All that’s and there is clothes, a bed and some furniture. The cat is the only living thing that I really need to get out of there.”

People who live at the complex say this is the second major water issue in months.

Officials say management is working to find rooms for all the displaced residents and are working to find a way to allow residents into their homes to grab medicine, pets and other items.

Businesses on the block were not impacted, according to officials, because they operate on a different system.

Fire Rescue said a firefighter suffered a minor injury while responding but they are okay and will return to duty.

Statement from Northland, Owner of Element Tampa:

"Earlier this morning, a water main break on the 27th floor of Element caused flooding throughout parts of the building. With guidance from the City of Tampa Fire Marshal, we ordered an evacuation and are working with officials and our property team to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. The safety and wellbeing of our residents are our top priorities."