Fire and Ice takes over South London

From blazing skies to heavy snowfall, in January 2010 South London was the scene of extremes.

On January 6, before dawn a huge building went up in flames, forcing 150 people to evacuate.

Families living between Camberwell Station Road and Verney Road were awoken to be told by cops that a fire on a building site opposite could spread to their homes.

Residents escaped the flames – which reached 20ft high – and stepped out into the snow.

More than 70 firefighters from Southwark battled to control the blaze which burned for more than five hours.

The blaze echoed a fire just months earlier that had ripped through a building site managed by the same construction firm.

The Fire raging in the early hours of the morning (Picture: Marko Mielewicz)

On November 26, a fire between the north Peckham and Willowbrook Estates in Sumner Road made more than 300 residents homeless.

The site was also constructed from timber frames by Greenacre Homes.

Harriet Harman – MP for Camberwell and Peckham at the time –  called a review of all construction sites in Southwark after the fire, stating that she was “greatly concerned”  by the safety of the sites.

Then, not even 24 hours later, commuters were battling through the ice and snow and many of the vulnerable and elderly struggled to keep warm in houses plagued with faulty heating systems.

A view of the fire in Camberwell Sation Road from a resident’s widow (Picture: Kim Jones)

Schools were closed and traffic was brought to a crawl as a Siberian-like chill set in.

In the worst cold snap for 100 years, South Londoners were warned by the Met Office that temperatures could plunge as low as -8C and up to 10cm of snow could fall accompanied by a bitterly cold easterly wind.

In Southwark, 22 schools closed, in Lambeth, 15, Lewisham 12, and Wandsworth five. 

The borders of South London’s boroughs were hardest hit by the freeze, with some motorists forced to abandon their vehicles in hillier areas including Sydenham and Forest Hill, because of treacherous conditions.

From Stretham Hill station to Brixton station, dozens of commuters were seen shivering while waiting for buses before realising many had been diverted.

Walkers enjoy the snow in Burges Park, Walworth (Picture: Magnus Anderson)

The 159 route was stopping at Telford Avenue in Streatham instead of going all the wheel to Brixton.

A 36-year-old who left Catford at 3pm to drive home to West London abandoned their car just after Sydenham and caught the train.

She said: “I had problems keeping the car straight. The traffic was stopping and starting so I pulled over. Just as I did the car came sliding down the road and into a lamppost.”

Meanwhile, the lives of vulnerable adults and children were put at risk by council and private landlords who had left tenants without heating for days.

Pensioners in a Southwark council-owned sheltered accommodation block in Cossall Walk, Peckha, hit out at the council for leaving them shivering for days after their heating broke down on New Year’s Eve.

The residents were not given temporary heating or advice on what to do for five days after the breakdown.

Pictured top: The Camberwell blaze and traffic at a standstill during the cold snap in January 2010 (Picture: Marko Mielewicz / Marko Mielewicz)

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