Survivors of fatal Hampstead flats fire tell of fear as blaze spread
PUBLISHED: 18:36 21 November 2017 | UPDATED: 19:14 21 November 2017
Survivors of a fatal blaze which ripped through a Hampstead block of flats killing a woman in her 30s have spoken of their terror as the fire spread.
Retired teacher Aura Romero said she escaped from her flat with no time to fetch her shoes after being woken in the middle of the night by a concerned neighbour.
The 72-year-old, originally from Colombia, said: “I was already asleep in bed when it happened.
“I heard all these people running and shouting, someone knocked on my door and said: ‘Come out! Come out!’
“I saw the fire, the house was burning so badly.
“How did it start? I just don’t know, I am struggling to think because it seemed like it was in a store cupboard.
“I was not able to take any possessions with me, it was a big rush.
“We were pushed out of the property really, I couldn’t take my handbag or anything, no coat, no shoes.
“I was able to get dressed but there was no time for shoes, I was walking around in the street in my socks until a gentleman gave me a coat and some shoes.
“I’m okay physically but I am obviously quite upset.
“I cannot cry or do anything.
“I don’t know where I’m going to live.
“I’m going to see if I can get somewhere to stay with a friend.”
Miss Romero said the block contained 15 flats, eight of which were occupied.
She said she had lived in the property for 42 years, having originally only expected to stay for three months, and took advantage of a buy-to-let scheme to purchase the former council flat.
“There were people of all ages living here,” she said.
“Some were young children, there were families, and there are others who are my age.
“It is so upsetting.
“I don’t know who died but it was a lady.”
Some 60 firefighters tackled the blaze, while around 20 people fled the building before crews arrived when the alarm was raised at 1.52am on Tuesday.
One woman who was rescued from the building died at the scene, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said.
A neighbour, whose home backs onto the site of the blaze, said: “I woke at 2am and my bedroom was full of smoke. I panicked and jumped out of bed and ran around the house. I checked on the children upstairs and then ran down to the kitchen to try to find the blaze. The smoke was so thick I assumed it was in my house.
“Then when I looked out of the window I saw the house on fire. It is so sad that somebody has died.
No further details have been released about the casualty.
The LFB said fire had damaged part of the first, second and third floors of the building, with the roof completely reduced to charred fragments.
The fire was brought under control by 5am, although firefighters remained at the scene and motorists were advised to avoid the area.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation, the LFB said.