Seven people were taken to hospital after being trapped on the upper floors when a fire broke out in a Deptford tower block.
Fire crews in breathing equipment removed three adults and two children from the Mermaid Tower on Abinger Grove after flames spread from a flat on the eleventh floor into the rooms above.
One woman returned from shopping to find her two children trapped by the blaze. Both were removed safely by some of the 50 firefighters and ten engines called to the estate, who had subdued the fire by early Sunday evening.
The fire smashed windows and left a black scar spanning four floors on the outside of the building. One resident said the heat was so intense they felt it in the neighbouring courtyard.
Ten-year-old Sharon Schoengut said she was struck by glass and burned by falling debris when she came out to watch from a neighbouring block.
Lebari Jackson, who lives in the building, described how he and his neighbours tried repeatedly to leave only to find the stairwells full of smoke. He said: “You couldn’t see anything, it was just total blackout…we tried two or three times, but we couldn’t get down until the smoke was a bit less.”
Crowds gathered in the courtyard as one man waving a red cloth and a girl directly above the flames shouted for help from the windows.
One neighbour, Eva Mitchell, said: “She was in a flat above where the fire was and she was shouting ‘I can’t make it no more, I can’t make it no more, I will jump down’. People started encouraging her, ‘don’t jump down, there’s help coming, there’s help coming’.’’
Mitchell, who filmed the incident from her garden, said that fire crews “did a fantastic job”.
Another resident told the Brockley Central blog: ”It was awful. started in one flat burned flat above too – the screams of people stuck up there were horrid. Saw a baby being brought out ok. Forensic people now in both flats to see where it started.”
Fifty people were evacuated to nearby Evelyn Community Centre but were able to return in the evening, while fire crews remained on the scene until late this afternoon.
The fire comes nine months after a similar blaze at nearby Marine Tower, which killed two people. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Lewisham Homes, the social landlord in charge of the block, had previously been given an enforcement notice after the Fire Brigade found that the state of the building was in breach of fire safety regulations.
Video shot by Eva Mitchell