Tlaib, politicians join call for evacuation of southwest Detroit
Detroit — U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib and a coalition of Detroit-area politicians are asking city officials to evacuate residents of southwest Detroit who live near the site of an underground event that displaced gas and water lines as well as damaged buildings last week.
The politicians said it is unclear whether conditions are safe for residents near the site at the corner of Dearborn and W. Fort streets, where the provisioning center Stash Detroit was severely damaged in the Saturday night event. The building was demolished Tuesday.
"There's too many unanswered questions for us to stand still and wait until this community is wiped out because people were negligent," Tlaib argued during a press conference Friday at Trinity-St Mark's United Church, near the scene. "...The fact the ground is shaking alone should sound the alarms. What is the evacuation plan?"
Tlaib and state Sen. Adam Hollier, Democrats from Detroit, joined District 6 city Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López and the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, who on Thursday pushed city officials to evacuate nearby residents and warn them of the instability of the area.
Castañeda-López called on city officials to find ways for residents in the affected neighborhood to relocate to a hotel if they feel unsafe or have a central site to find food, water and updates.
"There should be options given to the families that are here," she said.
As a cautionary measure, DTE on Wednesday shut down a 24-inch, high-pressure natural gas pipe along Dearborn Street to avert a potential public safety issue and to allow the investigation into the ground shift to proceed safely.
Dianna Pierce, who lives in the neighborhood, wondered about the threat of more hazards.
"If that (the pipe) explodes, where does that leave us?" she said. "What’s the plan?"
City officials have said they are monitoring the situation and have deemed the area to be safe. On Thursday, after the benefits coalition first called for an evacuation, Detroit's Chief Operating Officer Hakim Berry reiterated "there is nothing from a health or safety standpoint at this time that would necessitate an evacuation."
He said the city would continue to monitor the situation. On Friday, officials with the city did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DTE Energy gas and electric infrastructure was damaged by a water main break during the event, spokeswoman Clare Liening said Friday. There is no evidence natural gas was the cause of the incident, she added.
But some residents who live near the site said they are not sure.
"We don't know enough information about the situation happening," said Candida Leon, a Delray resident.
Garry Buchanan, a father of three who lives blocks away, said he's sent his children with breathing issues away for now until more action is taken.
"I’m afraid to have them there," he said. "There’s a concern about the full depth of what’s going on."