At 03.00 hrs on Sunday morning 6 August 2011 the telephone rang but I did not get up to answer it. Then my cell received a text message. It was from my youngest son. He had to evacuate his flat because the carpet shop below where they lived was on fire. All the residents left the building with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
We felt certain the fire services would extinguish the fire and that the flats above the shop would be saved. However, it was not the fire services, nor the police who warned the residents that the building below them was on fire. The residents ran through the corridors knocking on the doors to wake and warn others that the building was on fire. The fire services and the police may have thought there were offices above the shop and that the office workers had gone home for the weekend.
Unfortunately the fire services did not save the building. It was completely destroyed. The photograph on the front page of Monday’s Guardian is of the building my son lived in.
All the residents are homeless. They have lost all their possessions.
When the residents fled the burning building there were rioters on the street, but there was no police protection for the residents. They were not directed to any place of safety. Residents had to fend for themselves. Those who had family in London went to their families. Others left the area and sat about in cafes that were open all night. My son waited for news that the fire had been extinguished. That news did not come. What the tv news channels showed was the building with flames at its heart reaching right up to the clock.
By mid morning there was no aid centre, help line, or website offering assistance to the residents who had evacuated the building. My son agreed he should be with his family in the north and returned to my home.