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Shadwell flat fire survivors fear homelessness following withdrawal of Council support

Many of the 16 survivors are battling daily trauma following the Maddocks House fire that killed father-of-two Mizanur Rahman on 5 March.

Survivors of a fatal flat fire in East London claim they are just days away from becoming homeless and ending up on the streets after the council said it would stop funding their temporary hotel accommodation.

The 16 survivors – who are all residing in a hotel – are suffering from traumatic experiences after the two-bed flat they were living in caught fire in March and killed dad-of-two, Mizanur Rahman.

The LDRS understands there were around 17 men of Bangladeshi origin who were living in the Shadwell flat at the time of the fire and were a mixture of students and workers.

The private landlord previously told the LDRS he was unaware there were that many  people in the flat, and said: “[There were] six to seven people [living] inside, but the other people I don’t know about.”

The cause of the fire is believed to have been linked to a lithium-ion battery for an e-bike but is still being investigated by the London Fire Brigade.

Tower Hamlets Council has provided hotel accommodation for the survivors since the incident however that is due to end on Monday (April 24). It said it has spent “around £100,000” helping the tenants so far despite not having a “legal obligation to offer this continued accommodation and support” and the 17 survivors have received a “weekly allowance totalling £1,250 per person”.

Survivors told the LDRS the council is working on finding new accommodation for the survivors however they claim they are just days away from facing homelessness.

Dipon Chandra Nath, who is studying for a master’s degree in management, said: “It is so difficult for us at the moment because after [our accommodation here ends], who will help us? Where will we go? It’s getting very difficult for us every day.”

A lot of the survivors are fasting for Ramadan and have been desperately looking for a new place to live however no one has had any luck.

Ehsan Ahmed Chowdhury, another student residing in the hotel, said: “What else can we do? We don’t have any options, we’re still trying to get back on our feet.”

He says his life hasn’t been the same since the incident and is battling daily trauma. A local campaigner has stepped up and has been providing mental health support for the group through a third party.

Mr Chowdhury, referring to the bike battery said to be related to the blaze, said: “Where I work I see a lot of bikes, if a bike passes me it’s a trauma. It’s a horrible experience. My whole life has changed.”

An anonymous survivor who is an asylum seeker admits it has been difficult for him to take showers because the steam takes him back to the fire.

He said: “I can’t even explain it’s very, very hard to explain. Even the shower steam feels like something bad is about to happen to me.”

The survivor said the council has left the group in “suspense” as they don’t know what is going to happen to them.

Law student, Nazmush Shahadat who was the only person awake at the time of the fire, said: “Before this incident and before everything, we had some money.

“Now we have to buy new clothes, we have to buy new things. We are not asking the council to let us stay in this hotel forever.”

Mr Shahadat continued: “Most people don’t understand we spent a lot of money to get here. We went from living like a prince to slumdogs – it’s not a good feeling.

“I couldn’t call any of my friends, I was so embarrassed I didn’t know what to do. There were many issues in there. The people [who lived there] were good but the house wasn’t.

“Believe me when I say this, from the first week we spent in that [flat] we all said we were going to move out.”

However Mr Shahadat said it has been difficult to find anywhere to live in London: “For some of us we are outcasts, we don’t fit into certain places.

“We are in exactly the same place we were at before only now it is a bit worse. Things are a little bit uncertain.”

Last month Tower Hamlets Council said it was launching a criminal investigation into the fire through the Housing Act and called the illegal subletting of properties “abhorrent and dangerous”.

However, a number of residents had complained to the council and Tower Hamlets Homes, who were in charge of the communal area of the block at the time, regarding overcrowding concerns.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “We recognise the extremely difficult situation the survivors of the Maddocks House fire have been faced with, and have done our utmost to ensure they have been supported and their welfare provided for since the fire took place.

“Since March 5, we have provided emergency hotel accommodation to 17 survivors, a weekly allowance totalling £1,250 per person, and welfare support and housing advice.

“Around £100,000 has been spent by the council cumulatively.”

The council spokesperson continued: “Though the council did not have a legal obligation to offer this continued accommodation and support, we have done so until now under emergency powers to support those affected by the fire.

“We have made sure that everyone has been informed ahead of time regarding the arrangements for the hotel. We have been in regular contact with the survivors and provided as much notice as possible, so they have time to find their own accommodation ahead of the hotel booking end date.

“We have also done what we can to help signpost tenants to find alternative accommodation, and have been assisting five survivors – who are entitled to recourse to public funds – in finding long-term solutions to their accommodation.”

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