"All we need to do is pack our towels, soap and assorted ablution wares, walk 300/400yds to the office, form an orderly queue and patiently await our turn to cleanse ourselves for the first time in four days..."
Around Saturday lunchtime, a car went out of control and smashed into the gas main outside Cremer House near Eccles town centre. Since then, while British Gas attempts to re-sort the supply, tenants have been without heating and hot water, and some are angry with the lack of information and facilities offered by landlord, City West Housing.
"It appears that City West sat on this all day Saturday and Sunday, when there should be some kind of emergency services, and they should have informed tenants earlier; there's a lot of people who have only found out what's going on through word of mouth and come Monday everyone was panicking" says tenant Ali Cassim.
"The City West phones were off during the weekend and I was just getting an answerphone" he adds "When I phoned the gas company they kept referring me back to City West's answerphone, until I got angry and then they said there was nothing they could do until Monday."
"City West should have provided some emergency provisions or something but they are still not saying anything" he explains "They've not knocked on any doors, nothing has been done whatsoever. The only information we've had is two letters which the caretakers have been posting, and even then, some people are saying they've not received them."
The first letter on Monday stated that a temporary electric heater was available for tenants to collect. This turned out to be a tiny 2kw fan heater. A second letter was posted on Tuesday stating "we are unfortunately unable to confirm when the heating and hot water will be fully reinstated", adding that "we are opening our Regent Street office to customers on Cremer House to use for bathing, which has a full private showering facility". The facility is only open 7am until 5pm.
This prompted Ali to write a really funny 'gallows humour' post on Facebook...
"As we head into the 5th day with no heating or hot water the flats are beginning to feel like ice tombs" he wrote "With no source of heat, you can feel the cold and damp seeping into the structure and last night was particularly cold. Before I went to bed I had to have a washdown in my kitchen sink because the sink in the bathroom is small with a rigid tap that makes it practically impossible to wash properly.
"So I bought half a dozen flannels and boiled countless kettles of water as I stood naked in my kitchen and tried to keep my self-respect by washing myself down" he added "God, it brought back memories of my childhood in the slums of Liverpool back in the 1950s/60s.
"A letter was posted yesterday from City West apologising for the terrible situation we find ourselves in and telling us that they cannot give us a date when this misery will end" he explained "They also told us that they have made available a room in their £8million plush, new, warm offices on Regent Street where we can use their washing/showering facilities between the hours of 7am and 5pm. Pity the workers who cannot manage to take up the offer.
"All we need to do is pack our towels, soap and assorted ablution wares, walk 300/400yds to the office, form an orderly queue and patiently await our turn to cleanse ourselves for the first time in 4 days" he added "Then with hair wet and clutching our dirty clothes and wet towels make our way back to our freezing flat where a tiny 2k watt heater will make us feel so much better...
"Thank you so much City West, I knew that you had a generous, caring side to you" he concluded "On a lighter note, I have woken with a smile on my face and looking forward to my 5th day of discovering how my grandparents lived..."
Behind the humour however, Ali says that tenants, already worried about unsafe cladding on the block, are just not coping...
"Someone from here had to go to their parents for a shower in Little Hulton, but I can't go anywhere as my mum lives in Iralm which is two hours on a bus with the major roadworks" he says "People don't know what to do. Everyone's so angry because this is about basic hygiene. You can't wash dishes or yourself without boiling loads of kettles, and together with the heater, it's burning up the electricity and costing a fortune.
"Meanwhile, City West is not saying anything" he adds "They've not knocked on any doors, and they cannot give us a date when this misery will end."
Yesterday afternoon, there were City West and gas workers at the site but no-one seemed to know when British Gas would finally fix the supply.
City West press office did not respond to the Salford Star when asked.
See also previous related Salford Star articles...
City West increases heating charges by 40% - click here
City West Housing trust makes £15million surplus and retreats from social housing - click here
Update: 2nd November 3pm
City West have now put a letter through people's doors stating: "Utility providers and British Gas will be attending site again tomorrow to connect the new pipework between the new meter and the block. Not withstanding any unforeseen issues we are hopeful that heating and hot water will be available to you by tomorrow evening..."
Main photo by Steven Speed shows Ali with heater