‘They’re moving students like musical chairs’: Exeter students on hotel evacuations

Over 300 students are still unable to return to their accommodation

Over 300 Exeter students are still in hotels and alternative accommodation, due to damage caused to a small number of campus buildings following the detonation of Exeter’s World War Two bomb on Saturday night

It comes after 1,400 students had to be evacuated after the bomb was discovered. Although the majority of students have been able to return to their halls of residence, the damage caused to Birks Grange Village and Clydesdale block B, which require “additional work”, means the students living here will now not be able to return for the rest of term. This has been confirmed in an email from the university this afternoon. 

The Exeter Tab spoke to students still staying in hotels waiting to return:

‘They seem to be moving students between hotels like musical chairs without warning anyone’

Liv is a catered student living in Birks Grange Village. She told The Exeter Tab: “They seem to be moving students between hotels like musical chairs without warning anyone.

“They rang me saying they were ready to take me to my new hotel and said I should’ve got an email, but I didn’t.

“I know lots of other students who’ve had the same thing has happened to them, it’s quite stressful as we don’t know anything, and they’re still being vague about how we get food, as we’re usually catered. Their communication hasn’t been the best, especially concerning food allowance. It was mentioned in one of their emails but to find out details of it, we had to phone them.

“We still don’t know how they plan to give out the money. When we spoke to them on the phone they said just keep your receipts, I think it’s £5 for breakfast, £5 for lunch and £10 for dinner. Most people are just getting takeaways and stuff”.

‘We have had no updates on when we are returning’

Eleanor told The Exeter Tab “It’s shit”.

She said they have been given “no updates on when we are returning” and also have been given “no details about the state of our building”.

She said: “The only reason we know that windows are broken are because people have snuck in at night to take photos of them”.

Eleanor said students have been emailed about a food allowance, however, she said: “It does not specify how much the allowance is or when we will get the money back for it.

“Calling the incident line to ask questions often just means you are put on hold for ages with the people on the other end sounding like they have no idea what’s happening too”.

Students waiting for hotel allocations on Friday night

‘The communication has been really poor’

Naomi told us she was put in one hotel with all her original household, but then “randomly moved because of an admin problem to a different one, completely isolated and by myself”.

She told us: “I spent all the next day and that evening calling all the recommended incident lines, SID and emailing the care team with no response at all. I was incredibly grateful to hear that there was a member of staff at the original hotel so I rushed there and was able to move when I spoke to someone in person. The communication has been really poor”.

She said students have been given no indication of the state of their buildings from the uni “despite many photos circulating of smashed windows”.  She said there is “constant uncertainty, we could leave any day but ultimately have no idea when we will leave whether that be in days or weeks”.

Naomi said the university was paying for hotels directly, and that students were paying for their food currently, but “apparently we will be reimbursed when this is all over”. Naomi said, “for those who are still here we have been told we are getting a one off payment of £100, not necessarily for food I think that is just for support”.

‘Everything is fine except for the fact that I don’t have anything to wear’

Hippolyte told us: “I’ve been staying at a four star hotel, so far everything is fine except for the fact that I don’t have anything to wear and that we have no information on following events.

“We have breakfast at the hotel but I don’t really go, and for the rest of the food, we just have to go to supermarkets or order online at places like Deliveroo. The uni is helping us with the money so that’s pretty nice.

“The only real problem would be the lack of communication and the fact that we don’t have our stuff”.

Ian Blenkharn, Director of Education and Support at the University of Exeter, said: “We know that this will have been a challenging time for many students, and we continue to provide full support to those affected. However, while the vast majority of students have now returned to their accommodation, there are still a number of students are still unable to return to university halls or private residences while safety works continue to take place.

“Unfortunately, due to damage some accommodation blocks on campus remain inaccessible and we do not expect them to reopen in the final weeks of term. The University is in direct contact with all affected students and will make the necessary arrangements to offer alternative University accommodation and ongoing support.

“We are providing transport to and from campus for those that require it, and representatives from our Here to Help team are available in the hotel receptions throughout the day to support the students.

“The University has also provided those who continue to be affected with a support payment of £100, which will be extended by an additional £100 for those that remain in temporary accommodation over the weekend. This is in addition to food and wifi allowances that have also been made to displaced students. The University is also arranging for students to book slots to collect essential belongings from their rooms, and making arrangements regarding insurance cover for any damage to personal belongings.

“We will continue to support our students until they can safely return to their accommodation, but anyone with concerns is asked to contact the Incident Line on 0300 3034847 or email [email protected]”.

If you’ve been affected directly by the incident contact the university’s incident line on 0300 3034847. Additionally, Exeter City Council will now be co-ordinating a helpline for local residents at 01392 265000. 

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Breaking: Some Exeter freshers unable to return to halls for the rest of term due to bomb

• ‘We’ve had no news’: Severe damage to Exeter student house 30m from bomb detonation site

• Some Exeter students still unable to return to halls due to bomb detonation damage