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Families stranded for days in tower block without heat, water

PUBLISHED: 21:18 12 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:57 05 October 2010

THE homes of 130 families in a tower block in London’s East End have been with out heating and mains water for four days in bitter winter temperatures after an electrical cable blaze. Most tenants at Bethnal Green’s Charles Dickens House have had to be evacuated and put up by Tower Hamlets council in emergency hotel accommodation while council officials distribute emegency food, water and sleeping bags

By Mike Brooke

THE homes of 130 families in a tower block in London’s East End have been with out heating and mains water for four days in bitter winter temperatures after an electrical cable blaze.

Most tenants at Bethnal Green’s Charles Dickens House have had to be evacuated and put up in emergency hotel accommodation.

Some have been staying with relatives since Friday morning.

But others chose to remain in their homes and have had to be supplied with emergency rations including hot food for the elderly and drinking water.

The electrical sub-station on the Mansford housing estate was gutted by the blaze. Power was cut to several blocks and nearby Lawdale Primary school.

Most of the power was restored by Saturday, more than 24 hours later.

But the 16-storey Charles Dickens House in Mansford Street has continued to be blacked out.

That has affected mains water which is pumped up into the 160ft tower by electric pumps, leaving families without essential services.

Staff from Tower Hamlets Community Housing were called in during the night on Friday and worked over the weekend helping the families after engineers from EDF electricity had to turn off the power for safety.

The nearby housing office in Teesdale Street remained open for 48 hours providing emergency help.

Officials have been visiting the families who have remained in the tower block with emergency packs including drinking water, torches and sleeping bags for extra warmth, while extra meals have been distributed to the elderly.

“It is possible there will be no supply to Charles Dickens House until the middle of the week,” a housing association statement said tonight.

“Dickens House is all electric, so it has no heating, lighting, water or lift operating.”

The tower block has been undergoing refurbishment which tenants complain has still not been completed after two years.

Belinda Harman, mother of one tenant, told the East London Advertiser: “This latest disaster will cost the tenants money they don’t have, with spoiled food in their fridges. Why are they treated so badly?

“It is not Dickensian times in Bethnal Green, but might as well be for the tenants of Charles Dickens House.”

Contractors have rigged up temporary lighting to the stairs, while security guards have had to be brought in to protect property.

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Belinda’s Letter to the Editor


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