Barking fire: Families claim there were no fire alarms in block of flats
PUBLISHED: 15:43 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:02 10 June 2019
"Traumatised" residents who escaped the Barking Riverside blaze say it is lucky no one was killed, claiming there was no warning from fire alarms or sprinklers in the building.
Young families and other affected residents packed out Thames View Community Centre, where a rest centre has been set up, to demand answers this morning (Monday) during a meeting with representatives from the council, fire brigade and housing management.
But there were few answers the authorities could offer while the investigation continues into the cause of the fire. Another meeting will be held this afternoon.
The blaze at Samuel Garside House in De Pass Gardens broke out around 3.30pm yesterday and destroyed 20 flats, damaged another 10 and has displaced - at least temporarily - the residents of 80 homes.
A number of emotional residents said they were alerted to the danger by their neighbours and otherwise would not have known, claiming they had raised fire and other safety concerns repeatedly prior to the blaze.
In recent months, the building has had fire wardens from 7pm to 7am.
Some residents told the Barking and Dagenham Post of the terrifying moments in which they, or their loved ones, fled the burning building.
Luke, 26, who requested his surname be withheld, was on his way home from Great Ormond Street Hospital with his seven-year-old daughter after her open heart surgery, when he received a frightening phone call.
"I was driving home and my partner rang me screaming down the phone, 'the place is on fire, the place is on fire'," the father-of-two said.
"She just grabbed the dog and ran out the house, and while I was on the way, I was getting pictures from people.
"I got there and it was destroyed - everything is gone.
"Just hearing my partner screaming, I haven't heard anything like that before, it was phenomenally scary."
Luke's partner Miriam escaped the building after initially hearing the "cracking and popping" of fire.
"She went and looked and saw lots of people outside shouting, so she opened up the door and looked to her left and saw the inferno which was the flat immediately next to us," Luke said.
"She didn't know, there was no fire alarm, she wasn't warned or anything, so she grabbed that dog and ran and as she ran she was banging on people's doors in the corridor."
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The couple, who were planning to marry in two months, lost everything.
They have been back to their flat and found that "everything is obliterated", salvaging only their passports from a cupboard.
"I've lost my house, I've lost everything," Luke said. "The wedding plans have gone up the wall, we've been saving for two years.
"We both work for the ambulance service so we see it in our jobs, but it's different when it's your own.
"I work nights sometimes, so I could've been asleep throughout the day, I could have been asleep when it happened."
While some are coming to terms with having lost everything, others - like mother-of-two Sonia Sahota - are anxiously waiting to find out whether their flat was damaged or destroyed.
"I've got everything crossed right now, we really don't know anything," Sonia said.
"Today I think it's a realisation for everybody, it's hitting everyone.
"Everyone feels more upset and anxious about what's going to happen to us - where do we go from here? How do we move forward? "There's so many questions and I think we're all upset about how it's happened."
Sonia, her husband Rav and two boys aged four and 18 months, have lived in the building for almost six years.
"If our neighbour hadn't have knocked on our door screaming, we wouldn't have known there was a fire because none of the alarms went off or anything." Sonia said.
"We grabbed our two kids and just ran as fast as we could down the corridor and we could just hear people screaming getting everybody out as quickly as we could.
"I don't think we realised how bad it was until we got out and as we've got our children in our arms, we've turned around and it's just gone in seconds."
The family are staying with relatives until they figure out the next step.
"It is a horrible nightmare," she said.
"We've got two kids growing up so where do we go from here? That was everything, that was our life starting. We're just really confused and there's lots of questions to answer."
The building's management organisation Residential Management Group and developer Bellway have been contacted for comment.