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East London residents tell of panic as flames engulfed building | London

An investigation is under way into a fire at a business centre with flats in east London that residents have said will keep them from their homes for most of the bank holiday weekend.

About 100 firefighters were sent to deal with the fire in the Bow area of the capital after the alarm was raised at about 6pm on Friday, bringing it under control within three hours.

One resident of the fire-hit building has described seeing smoke coming from the roof of the homes adjacent to his flat and banging on neighbours’ doors to alert them.

The man, who gave his name only as Drew, spoke to reporters at the police cordon on Friday. “I was going to run myself a bath and I came back downstairs and looked out the window and saw loads of smoke then realised, oh my God, it’s our building that’s on fire.

“The flats at the top are two floors, I saw people through the windows as the fire was going on. The fire alarm wasn’t going off, they had absolutely no idea. The first thing I did was call the fire service, then I ran downstairs to make sure that the building was evacuated and told the fire warden the flats hadn’t been evacuated.

“It was quite clear the fire was coming from the roof, it wasn’t coming from the flats. I ran back upstairs and grabbed my bag then ran down my corridor and banged on the doors shouting: ‘Fire.’”

Describing the fire as “very intense”, he added: “We’ve just been told it’s not looking like we’ll be able to get into our flats today or tomorrow. Thankfully, my friend lives down the road so I can go and stay with her. It was just a bit surreal. The strange thing is it was burning so intensely but no alarm was going off.”

About a dozen residents were stood outside the police cordon, including a man holding a cat in his arms. A man who lives in an adjoining building to the business centre and flats described seeing “billowing black smoke”.

The resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I was working at my desk on the ground floor and a neighbour knocked on the window. I came outside and you could see all the billowing black smoke coming out of the roof. You could see big flames as well. It was completely surreal, it actually looked quite serious.

“Then I thought, I know that the top couple of floors are residential. The fire engines arrived really soon, it was a pretty sturdy response. Then the heavens opened.”

The London fire brigade said: “A large part of the roof of the seven-storey commercial and residential building was damaged by fire. Half of the flats on the fifth and sixth floors of the building were also damaged. Fifteen people left the building before the brigade arrived. There were no reported injuries.

“One of the brigade’s 64-metre turntable ladders and a 32-metre turntable ladder were deployed as water towers to tackle the flames from height and road closures were put in place to allow crews to work safely.”

Patrick Goulbourne, an assistant commissioner, said: “This was a challenging and complex fire but our crews worked quickly and tirelessly to restrict damage to homes and ensure that no one was hurt … At the same time, we were also dealing with another significant fire elsewhere in London.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/aug/26/east-london-residents-tell-of-panic-as-flames-engulfed-building East London residents tell of panic as flames engulfed building | London

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