RESIDENTS left homeless after an explosion destroyed their block of flats in Blackbird Leys have been told they face at least two more months of living in hotels.

New images have revealed the extent of the devastation at the Joiners Court flats off Pegasus Road after flames tore through the building last month.

Almost six weeks on, residents remain stranded in hotels and face a potential nine month wait for repairs to be finished, after they 'lost everything' when they were forced to flee.

AS IT HAPPENED - Blackbird Leys flat fire video

Julie Jones was among those at home when the blast happened.

She said: "I was sat in the front room playing on my mobile and I kept hearing this clicking noise.

"Just click, click, click and it was getting faster, then all of a sudden there was a big explosion and the whole floor moved left to right.

"It shook the whole building, lifted the chair, the window smashed and then there was smoke everywhere.

"The boy opposite was telling everyone to get out, I ran back in to get my phone and ran out with no shoes on. It was awful."

The Oxford Times:

Videos of the fire on June 11 showed flames bursting through a front window while smoke poured from the roof.

Ms Jones, who lived above the flat where the fire started, said she was told her cat Tilly had died in the 'explosion'.

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It was four weeks later, when the 54-year-old was finally allowed back to her flat, owned by housing association Catalyst, that she found Tilly alive although she wasn't able to take him back to the Travelodge.

She said: "The flat is completely wrecked, everything is gone.

"Literally everything is ruined – all the white goods got wet so I can’t trust using them again and we’ve been told when we get a new place we have to furnish it completely ourselves.

"We are all feeling the same, we feel we deserve some sort of compensation for all this. My flat is one of the worst because I was at the top.

"I wouldn’t want to go back and live there because of the memories and everything I have lost. My cat is probably traumatised as well."

The Oxford Times:

Pictures show little left of the roof to Ms Jones' flat, rubble trailing the floors, and cracked and charred remains of walls and furniture.

After being found among the destruction, Tilly the cat is now being cared for by the RSPCA and Ms Jones faces the uncertainty of many more weeks in temporary accommodation.

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Ms Jones feels residents are being treated unfairly. She said: "It just doesn’t feel like they [Catalyst] are doing anything.

"They have tried to say it was a television [that caused the explosion] but I don’t believe it was. Many of the residents have asked to see the fire service report but they say they don’t have it.

"We need answers: it couldn’t have been a television explosion, they wouldn’t go up like that."

She added: "We are the victims in all this and we feel they just don’t care."

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has now said that due to the severity and damage, the cause of the fire remains 'inconclusive', although added it was 'highly unlikely' to be caused by a television as the fire started in a different area.

The fire service has, however, ruled out arson.

The Oxford Times:

A friend of one resident who was also in the building at the time, and wants to remain anonymous, said it was also four weeks before they were able to get back in their flat.

The resident fled without his wallet and had to wait two weeks for it to be returned. He also incurred a £275 tax fine for being unable to get the documents needed to register his car off-road.

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Despite being told he could not go back to the flat for weeks, he was sent footage from neighbours showing the destruction of his own home.

The friend added: "Every resident seems to be being treated differently – the only thing they have have in common is that they all feel it hasn’t been managed as well as it could have been.

"As a whole everyone just seems to be feeling frustrated, asking things like what they do next, when permanent accommodation will be arranged, also asking to see the fire report. They need answers.

"Catalyst have been very good in a lot of ways, but also in a lot of ways they could have done better.

"Almost six weeks now they have been away from their homes and it's provoking anxiety: my friend especially likes to be able to go back to his nest and be in for the evenings after work."

The resident is among those who has been given £75 from Catalyst for clothes, and is expecting to be moved to different temporary accommodation soon as he needs cooking facilities and does not eat the food at the Travelodge.

The Oxford Times:

Catalyst said it has also offered counselling to residents and hopes to get the least-damaged households back at home in within eight weeks.

A spokesman said: "We understand this is a frustrating and difficult time for our customers at Joiners Court and are working hard to make sure they are looked after.

"We are in in regular contact with every household in a number of ways. We have met with each at their home at least twice, we have held meetings with the majority of our customers every two weeks at their hotel, and we also provide a weekly phone update to each household.

"Some residents have requested more regular contact and have been speaking to our team at least four times a week, with direct access to mobile numbers."

Currently residents are being put up in the Travelodge on Abingdon Road and other nearby hotels or temporary accommodation. Catalyst also said it has provided shopping vouchers for clothes, plus daily food allowances.

The Oxford Times:

The spokesman added: "We will continue to provide free temporary accommodation until their homes are ready to return to. For those who wish to move elsewhere, we are working with the council and other housing providers to find alternative accommodation.

"We have arranged for residents to collect personal possessions from their home, and also identify items that need to be safely stored or protected during the work."

The incident has now been handed over to Catalyst's insurance company.

The community has rallied round to help the residents by setting up a fundraising page for support, raising £315, while they remain homeless.

To donate visit

http://bit.ly/2Kd64Vu