Hundreds of students were evacuated Tuesday morning from their rooms in Fluor Tower after a fire sprinkler was set off on the sixth floor, officials said.
The floor is part of the El Sol y La Luna Latino Floor special interest community. Following the incident, a meme targeting Latinx students that reside in the floor where the flooding originated was passed around on social media.
“All the residents safely evacuated,” said Jenesse Miller, a spokesperson for USC, adding university officials were not aware of the image. “There wasn’t a fire. There were no injuries.”
After the alarm was triggered and USC’s Department of Public Safety and the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the scene at 3:26 a.m., students were brought to Lyon Recreation Center, which is located at the base of Fluor Tower. They stayed there until about 5:15 a.m., when the majority of students were allowed to return to their rooms, according to Miller.
Other students whose apartments were more severely damaged were taken to alternate housing on campus.
“Occupants of two units were provided alternate rooms in other USC residential buildings while repairs are being made,” she said. Miller said it was uncertain how long those students would be living in the alternate housing.
Dara Adedara, a freshman who lives on the fifth floor of Fluor Tower, described being outside until almost six in the morning.
"It was really rough because obviously it was the middle of the night,” Adedara said. "We were all so shocked we didn’t know what was happening.”
Adedara lives directly below the room where the flooding originated. She said most of the damage in her apartment occurred in the common area, not in any of the individual rooms.
“I was scared all my stuff was ruined but going back at like 6 a.m. [and] everything was fine,” Adedara said.
Justin Powell, another freshman who lives on the fifth floor, described having to wait at Lyon Center longer than other students because of the damage to his room.
“[The flooding] damaged our suite pretty badly,” Powell said. “So we had to wait even longer than everyone else. All the other floors were back in probably around six, but we had to wait until 6:30 a.m. because they were still cleaning out ours.”
Powell said the damage to his suite was mostly to the common area, as well. He described the flooding came into his room through the hallways.
Powell was one of the students who saw the meme, which implied the flooding was due to the students living in that floor. The meme shows a lobster with a weight and reads, “You can’t make tamales at 3 a.m. and then forget to turn off the microwave.”
“That was really racist and out of pocket,” Powell said. “I also live on a special interest floor and if that happened on my floor, I would have been very upset.”
Another student, Dara Adedara, heard of the meme but did not actually see it. “I didn’t even know [what] it was … I think maybe it was circulating around maybe 5 am. I only remember the reaction of my floormates. They were just like, ‘What is this?’”
The cause of the flooding is still under investigation, according to Miller.