Residents at a block of flats in east London where a man died following a fire have said they raised concerns about overcrowding several times.
Father-of-two Mizanur Rahman, 41, died after a three-roomed flat in Maddocks House on Cornwall Street, Shadwell, was ablaze on the early hours of 5 March.
London Fire Brigade (LFB) said 15 people left the flat before it arrived.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation and the landlord has denied any wrongdoing.
A spokesperson for the LFB said it believed the fire was caused by “a lithium-ion battery” for an e-bike. The Metropolitan Police said the fire was not being treated as suspicious.
Tower Hamlets Council added it had acted upon previous complaints about overcrowding using the powers available to the authority.
Mr Rahman was rescued from a bedroom by firefighters after they were called to the scene at 02:52 GMT. He was taken to hospital but later died.
The fire follows claims from residents who told the BBC they raised concerns about the living conditions in the flat in Maddocks House but said nothing was done.
One man in his 30s, who asked not to be named, said he was sleeping in one of the rooms in the flat and that 18 people had been at the property the night the fire broke out before they left the building in their pyjamas.
“We were all sleeping, someone called me and said get up, get up,” he said. “We saw very black smoke… too much smoke, we [couldn’t] see.”
The man said he was only staying in the flat because he could not find anything else, adding: “Accommodation is very difficult. I am, every day, trying to find a room. I’ve been trying for six or seven months.”
Another resident of the flat, 34-year-old Zubayer Khan, said he had been living there for about three months.
He said there were several sets of bunk beds in each room, with just one toilet and bathroom, adding the flat housed “18 to 21 people” with each room holding “seven to eight people”.
“Some are sleeping in the kitchen, some are sharing beds, some are sleeping on the floor,” he said.
While some of the occupants lived in the house for some time, they said other people were paying £20 a night to stay for a shorter period of time, and between 18 and 23 people could have been sleeping there on any given night.
Council ‘acted on complaints’
Other residents in Maddocks House said Tower Hamlets Council had been warned previously the number of people living in the flat was a safety issue.
Natalie, who lives on the same estate and is a representative of the residents’ association, said: “Everyone knew about the complaint from at least 2021. It was left to residents to take photos and make more and more complaints.”
In a statement, a council spokesperson said it was working with the Met and London Fire Brigade on investigations into the cause of the fire, “and into the living conditions of the flat”.
They went on: “We are supporting those who have been affected with a weekly allowance and signposting to advice, and have provided emergency hotel accommodation which we have now extended for a further week.”
The landlord of the flat, who spoke to the BBC through a translator, denied responsibility for any alleged overcrowding and said the claims were false.
He said he was renting to three people only and was unaware 18 people were living in the flat until the night of the fire.
Source – BBC News