ravellers staying in a quarantine hotel next to Gatwick Airport were rushed out of their rooms and forced to regroup in a parking lot after a fire alarm triggered a mass evacuation of the building.
Images showed the guests, many of whom had arrived from Red List countries, crammed into large groups “without social distancing” outside the four-star Sofitel on Thursday morning.
Busi Mudimu, arriving from South Africa on Wednesday, was among dozens of passengers who fled his room after a fire alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. She said guests were initially instructed to stay in their rooms, but large crowds started to leave the building after the alarm did not go off.
“When I went out there were people everywhere,” she told Standard. âAll the social distancing rules have fallen out the window. Some people did not have shoes or clothes.
âIt was all ridiculousâ¦ no one was even there to make sure we evacuated the building safely. “
Photos posted on social media showed crowds of people, some wearing face covers, huddled together in white towels shaking in temperatures of 2 Â° C. Ms Mudimu said the guests did not return to their rooms for about two hours because a fire engine was working at the scene.
Hotel staff also attempt to conduct a role call using a speakerphone as guests walk through the parking lot.
Ms Mudimu, from Johannesburg, called the scenes “ridiculous” after paying Â£ 2,285 to quarantine at the hotel. Travelers are strictly required to stay in their rooms at all times and not to mingle with other guests.
She added: âWe are supposed to be the most contagious people. Everything is so badly managed.
âIf I was home I would be safer than here. I feel stuck.
Pierre de Villiers, 50, a travel journalist who arrived from Cape Town, told MailOnline that police finally arrived at the scene and calmed everyone down.
He said: âThe whole episode was a mess – like they didn’t adapt their normal fire drill to be a quarantine hotel. Total chaos.
Sally Buckmaster tweeted: ‘Chaos at the Gatwick Sofitel with guests being asked to stay in their rooms during a fire alarm, then evacuated in unsafe conditions and left standing in the freezing cold. “
The hotel is a short distance from Gatwick Airport and is connected to the North Terminal by a footbridge.
Sofitel has been contacted for comment.
A Sussex Police spokesperson said: ‘Police were called after guests were evacuated from the Sofitel hotel in Gatwick due to a fire alarm around 8am this morning (December 9).
âOfficers helped with a temporary road closure to ensure evacuees could be socially distanced.
âThe guests were returned to the hotel shortly after 9 am.