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Tiles in the Harnwell mezzanine fell, giving way to water from the pipes above. 

Credit: Julio Sosa

Only a day after the start of final exams, a broken sprinkler flooded various rooms in Harnwell College House and left multiple students displaced.

The flooding began with a broken sprinkler in room 713, residents and Facilities and Real Estate Services workers on the scene said. Beyond the seventh floor, the water dripped into rooms on at least the sixth and second floors and all-but covered the mezzanine kitchen. Stairways below the seventh floor also contained intermittent pools of water.

“Around 6:45 p.m., the alarm went off and we were told to go to the stairwell,” said College sophomore Tarun Mallipeddi, who lives on the seventh floor. “It was really bad timing. We have maybe an inch of water in our living room.”

Until at least 9:30 p.m., an alarm could still be heard on the fifth floor, which otherwise appeared unaffected by the flooding.

Students living on the seventh floor were shuttled, bags and studying materials in tow, to other college houses and hotels. College sophomore Shawn Simmons, who lives in room 713 where the initial flooding began, was moved to Sansom East with his roommates. 

“All the hotels in the area are booked up,” Simmons said in an interview inside his thoroughly soaked room, just before he was shuttled to Sansom. Black, dirty water, which FRES Housekeeper G.G. Zeru said was indicative of fluid from the sprinkler, covered nearly every inch of their floor. The bedding in Simmons’ apartment was “soaked,” another FRES worker said.

Simmons, who was not in the room when the flooding began, said his roommate initially heard a "popping noise," around 6 p.m., which he thought was coming from the bathroom.

Suddenly, black water started gushing from the ceiling of the apartment.

"My stuff was all pretty destroyed," Simmons said. 

Zeru arrived in room 713 around 8:30 p.m. with Haile Brooke, another housekeeper. They were told by their supervisor that Harnwell had a “major flood,” Zeru said.

There was “dirty black water all over the floor” when they arrived, Brooke said.

Seventh floor residents were also told to take note of any damaged valuables. "They told us to hang on to anything broken because they might reimburse us," Mallipeddi said.

Directly below room 713, College senior Giovanna Pineda angrily swept water from her room into the hallway. "I have two finals on Friday, so this is the worst," she said. “All of my shoes are ruined."

On the second-floor, House Dean Courtney Dombroski visited students’ rooms just before 8 p.m. She declined to comment, deferring a response on the flooding to a residential worker accompanying her. The worker also declined to comment and refused to specify her position with residential services. 

Late Tuesday night, Associate Director of Strategic Planning at Residential and Hospitality Services Nathan Cockrum sent an email to displaced students with instructions on how to move their belongings.

"Please know that University administration is aware of this incident and student support services will be reaching out to you tomorrow," he wrote. "Your schools have been notified that this flood has occurred."

"[Facilities and residential staff] were all pretty helpful in terms of moving stuff back," said Simmons, who had a paper due that night.

Residents were advised in the email to bring their own towels, overnight supplies, snacks, toilet paper and bedding. Cockrum said the house office had a "small supply of bedding available ONLY for residents whose bedding is soaked." 

The email clarified that Sansom East and Sansom West would serve as temporary housing for the relocated students. Cockrum also urged students to not discard any damaged items.

"Residential Services staff will be in touch with you tomorrow to assist you with the process of claiming damaged items with the University's Office of Risk Management," he wrote.

Simmons said he will begin filing claims with the ORM once he is done with his academic obligations. 

After similar flooding incidents in the past, the University has partially reimbursed students for the cost of their damaged items. 

This article was last updated on May 4th at 4:48 p.m. Check back for updates

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