A single mum has spoken out about her “nightmare” experience of living through a large fire that broke out on the 20th floor of a block of flats in South London.
Around 70 firefighters rushed to a tower on Westbridge Road, Battersea on Tuesday, October 12, just after 8pm.
The fire is believed to have been accidental and involved a candle and a child was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Marianna Demetri is a single mum of a 17-year-old son, 10-year-old daughter and four-year-old son. She has been living in a Clapham Junction Travelodge in the aftermath of the blaze.
Speaking about the fire, Marianna told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “There was a bang at my door and my neighbour said there’s a fire in my flat you need to get out immediately.
“I shut the door, I went back, my kids were screaming, we were trying to find our shoes, my reaction was do I put a wet towel over my kids’ mouths.
“I opened the door again to come out and the smoke came into the flat. It was this thick, white smoke and as soon as it entered the flat the smoke alarm started going off. We couldn’t even see the way to the stairs.”
(Image: Marianna Demetri)
Marianna and her three children had to scramble down 20 flights of stairs to get out. The mum continued: “I didn’t even realise that my two younger ones didn’t even put their shoes on.
“I got down and I couldn’t find [my kids]. I remember I was screaming and trying to find them and then all of a sudden massive explosions went off.
“Apparently it was the blast from the flat windows and all the glass was just hitting us on the top of our head and then we literally just stood there outside the block and then watched it burn.
“I just kept saying to myself, I’ve lost everything, I’m a single mum, I work hard, we have a nice home. My daughter was screaming saying we’re going to die. She is traumatised.”
Now the mum believes the already awful damp in the flat will be “out of control” as it has been shuttered for a month.
She continued: “Nobody with any authority came from the council, they sent a liaison officer and he had no idea, he didn’t even have a plan or what to do in case of a fire.”
Marianna said the only suggestion the liaison officer had was to stay with family that night so she went to her mum’s house.
Speaking about her flat, the 40-year-old also said: “My flat is okay it just really smells bad and has got the smoke smell it in and my main concern is the outside of my flat.”
She said Wandsworth Council wanted to send her and her kids to Fulham or Chiswick, but Marianna refused because she needed to be near her GP for health reasons.
The council put the family in a Travelodge in Clapham Junction where they have been for around three weeks.
Marianna’s 17-year-old son has his own room and Marianna shares a bed with her two children as her 10-year-old daughter is too scared to leave her.
(Image: Marianna Demetri)
She said: “I’m having to deal with her having nightmares, she’s having counselling at school, we’ve been to the doctors.
“We’ve had no help and the council can’t help us financially so I’m having to pay for breakfast, lunch, dinner, takeaways – it is an actual joke the amount of money that I’ve spent.”
She added: “It’s like fighting in a battle that I’m never going to win.”
Marianna claimed the council have been unresponsive and not updating her on the situation.
A spokesperson from Wandsworth Council said: “In the immediate aftermath of the fire we arranged for this tenant and her children to be rehoused temporarily in a hotel while repairs to the communal areas of the block are carried out.
“She is currently booked into the hotel for another five days and if the repairs are complete by that date she will then be able to return to her home. We are in touch with her and happy to discuss any concerns she may have.”