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Baker water pipes break

By Lakshmana Rao

The second floor of the west side of Baker House was flooded Sunday night, after a pipe in the sprinkler system was broken.

The accident, which occurred at about 6:15 pm, resulted in up to three inches of flooding, according to Rajesh Suryadevara '94, a floor resident. "The sprinkler probably broke because somebody was doing pull-ups on the system," he said.

Baker Housemaster and Professor of History William B. Watson said that the exact cause of the leak has not yet been determined. He added that according to the fire department, the pipe was sheared-off and could not have broken on its own. No one has claimed responsibility for the action, he said.

The fire department estimated that water gushed out at a rate of over 300 gallons per minute, according to one resident of Baker.

Sylvain Levesque G, the floor's graduate resident tutor, said that "nobody in the dormitory could stop the [sprinkler] system. Physical Plant was informed, and it took them about 20 minutes to reach the site."

He said that although it is difficult to estimate the exact extent of damage, "the flooding resulted in the wetting of shoes and other personal belongings of some students."

Levesque added that damage would have been much less if the accident had occurred on a weekday, as the house manager could have attended to it immediately.

The water trickled down to the first floor of the dormitory and resulted in some residents getting drenched, Suryadevara said. According to one student, the damages were estimated at between $3000 and $4000, including at least one stereo system on the first floor.

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Residents could not agree on whether first or second floor residents had suffered more damages. Watson said that the dormitory had suffered minimal structural damage.

According to William McCue, a Physical Plant counsel operator, such things occur rarely. Physical Plant described the flooding as "extensive water damage."

The fire alarm was automatically activated after the sprinkler pipe was ruptured, and residents quickly evacuated the building. Many second-floor residents tried to save their belongings, and did not leave until Campus Police officers ordered them to do so.

Residents were not allowed to return to their rooms until an electrician deemed the area safe. First to enter the building were volunteers from among the residents, who helped the firemen and police in cleaning up some of the water.

Watson did not have an estimate of damage to personal property, but reminded students that the MIT Housing Office recommends the purchase of individual insurance policies. He added that if a person or group of people were responsible for the incident, then additional decisions regarding liability might be made.

Watson was impressed by residents' ability to cope with the situation. "Students on the floor responded magnificently, in a spirit of cooperation" to help clean up the area, he said.