JUST three weeks ago they practiced their fire drills – not realising it would soon become all too real.

For the 300 workers who were on site at Mayflower Halls found themselves running from the building in a real life evacuation.

Alarms echoed through the rooms of all three tower blocks, which are due to house more than a thousand University of Southampton students from September, and within just five minutes all three-hundred workers escaped unharmed.

Daily Echo:

From plasterers to labourers, the contractors assembled at Mayflower Park watching as the emergency services raced to the scene.

Once they were down the workmen were seen phoning their loved ones to tell them they were safe.

A worker who asked not to be named said: “We had a fire drill three weeks ago so it was great because when the alarms went off everyone knew where to go.

Daily Echo:

“Some people think it was gas cylinders but it was more likely to be bitumen that caused the explosion. It looks worse than it is because of the thick smoke that it’s caused.”

Ryan Keenan, 20, a labourer from Swaythling, said: “I was just in the other building and the fire alarms went off. We didn’t think anything of it at first but as we came out we saw all the flames coming out. There were a few loud bangs – there were gas cylinders on the roof. We had to stand in the park. They don’t think we’ll be in there again today.”

Plasterers Bob Lloyd and Thomas Berwick had been working on the site when they were evacuated.

Bob, 35, from Portswood, said: “We were in the adjacent building when we heard a loud bang and the fire alarms went off and everyone was evacuated onto the green.

“I just hope no one was hurt up there.”

Dad-of-two Thomas, 27, said: “We were a bit annoyed because we’d just finished applying the first coat to a room and it’s going to have to get redone.”