Couple who escaped Grenfell blaze offered new flat on the 10th floor, inquiry hears

By Hannah Neary, Local Democracy Reporter

A woman who escaped the Grenfell Tower fire has been stuck for years in a flat where she can’t open the windows because she is constantly haunted by the sound of nearby fire engines.

Emma Louise O’Connor, 33, has been desperately searching for a new home after four years of living in a flat close to three fire stations, which triggers her post-traumatic stress disorder.

Emma and her partner Luke moved into a flat in Kensington four years ago and have been battling to be rehoused by Kensington and Chelsea council ever since.

Emma, who is disabled and has mobility difficulties, said: “I have got severe PTSD which is set off by sirens and it’s even worse when the fire engines go past.

“I can’t open any windows. It just sets me off in a panic attack.”

Emma Louise O’Connor and partner Luke both escaped the blaze at Grenfell Tower in the early hours of June 14 (Picture: Emma Louise O’Connor)

Emma and Luke fled their flat on the 20th floor of Grenfell in the early hours of the fire on June 14, 2017.

The couple had lived in the tower for five years and then moved in with family for a short while immediately after the tragedy.

She said: “We escaped the 20th floor of the tower via a lift with seconds to spare before it went up.”

Emma said she can hear sirens going off between five and 20 times a day and she struggles to leave the flat because the noise is so triggering.

She added: “We were made to feel like we were selfish if we didn’t accept this property.

“I physically can’t go out of the front door without hearing them. I can’t be in my mum’s property when the fire alarms are going off, even if it’s just a drill.”

Emma and Luke have made bids for other properties in London but were rejected multiple times.

She said the rejections and huge waiting lists for social housing are “quite disheartening”.

She also claimed they were encouraged to apply for a flat on the 10th floor of a housing block, which was very upsetting for them both.

She added: “What the council could do is put Grenfell residents in a completely different category and stop putting unacceptable properties up.

“I’m not going to go anywhere above a ground floor or basement flat. How insensitive do you have to be?”

A Kensington and Chelsea spokesman said: “The council spent more than £200m to secure more than 300 homes, and we have supported 198 households into a home of their own.

“All of the remaining households from Grenfell Tower and the Walk are in private rented accommodation of their choosing.

“We are continuing to support the remaining households to find a home they can settle in, some will choose to move again and we have a policy in place to assist with that.

“We continue to work with all these households at their own pace.”

Pictured top: Grenfell Tower (Picture: Google Street View)

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