Wednesday 20 September 2017

Children dropped from balconies to escape burning apartment block

Sam Griffin

TERRIFIED residents jumped from first-floor windows and others were forced to drop their children from balconies to neighbours below as fire ravaged their apartment complex.

Gardai believe the fire at the Thornfield Square apartment complex on Watery Lane in Clondalkin, Dublin, could have been started intentionally.

The complex consists of 25 housing units where around 70 people live. Several people were taken to hospital but their injuries are not serious.

Some residents of the four-storey building told the Irish Independent how they were woken by fire alarms in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Many believed this to be a false alarm as they frequently go off accidentally, according to residents. Others said they were awoken by emergency personnel after the alarm had been raised at around 5.30am.

The fire broke out in the hall of the first floor.

Lisa Gibbons (23) said the fire started near her apartment door and she was forced to drop her two infant children Nadine (4) and Brook (2) out the window to neighbours and family waiting below.

CRYING

"I woke up around half five when I thought I heard the baby crying. Then I heard the alarm but didn't think anything.

"Next my friend Natalie called out to me not to open the door and I could see smoke and flames at the bottom," she said, adding her children were traumatised by the events.

"I ran to the balcony door and had to pass my kids down to someone down there. They were basically naked.

"The youngest had only a nappy on and there are actually bruises on their arms from where we grabbed on to them when we passed them down."

Similarly, Selina Mooney (33) and her partner Danny Okungbowa (24) were asleep in apartment 29 when they were awoken.

Danny jumped from the balcony window before Selina passed their five-year-old daughter Aleesha down.

"I had to jump out that window when the fire was coming and now my legs are quite sore. But I didn't have a choice," Danny said afterwards.

Another one of those who initially ignored the alarms were 26-year-old Nadege Futi, originally form the Congo, and her son Destiny (5).

The two didn't realise the danger they were in until a firefighter banged on the door of their upper-floor apartment.

"I was about to ring the guards and then a fireman came to the door and told us to get out. There was smoke everywhere and we had to run down the stairs. My son didn't have any clothes on and I had to get something for him.

"He was really frightened and traumatised by the whole thing and still is," she said.

Up to 10 units of the fire brigade and ambulance services attended the scene and managed to bring the fire under control soon after arriving.

Angry residents complained that the main doors of the complex were frequently left open.

"Anyone can walk in," said Natalie Lawrence, who lives in number 24 of the building.

Jim O'Connor, manager of O'Connor Property Management, said the issue with doors being open was: "100pc due to residents going in and out of the building and leaving them open behind them."

On the issue of the alarms, he said: "The fact of the matter is the alarms all worked on this occasion and the people got out safely."

He also said he had secured temporary accommodation for all the residents in the nearby Ibis Hotel for "at least two nights" and was in the process of organising something beyond that.

Irish Independent

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