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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
'Lives shattered' in artwork fire
Fred Johnson and Saeed Bawa
Fred Johnson and Saeed Bawa say their lives have been shattered
Residents have spoken of their grief at seeing their livelihoods shattered in the blaze that has also destroyed artworks from the Saatchi collection.

Media attention has focused on the loss of modern art classics in the fire in Leyton, east London.

Businessmen whose warehouses were also burned down told BBC News Online they felt their plight has been ignored.

Fred Johnson, 51, said: "People are concerned about the paintings, but human lives have been wrecked here."

"Everything I have has now gone. I could now lose my house.


"The people who have lost works of art are multi-millionaires, but it is ordinary people who have been hurt the most by this fire.

"I have lost all I have built up in 30 years of hard work."

I have a family of eight to support... I don't know what we will do now
Saeed Bawa

Mr Johnson, a father-of-three from nearby Chingford, ran his upholstery business, FV Johnson Upholstery, from two units on the Cromwell Industrial Estate.

Much of his work included refurbishing British embassies in countries such as Russia, Africa, Iceland and other in the Middle East, he says.

But he said: "This blaze has cost me around 400,000.

"I had been planning to help my daughter, who is 16, go to university, but I can't see how she can do it now."

Close to tears, he added: "It is heartbreaking to see all these years of hard work go up in smoke."

Lives 'decimated'

Mr Johnson said he did not insure his two units due to the high costs involved, which he put at about 5,000 per year for the buildings and contents.

Saeed Bawa, 53, a father-of-four, said he now feared for his family's future now his livelihood was gone.

He said: "I have a family of eight to support, which includes my sister who is severely disabled. We all live in one house in Haringey. But I don't know what we will do now."

He choked back tears as he said: "This has decimated my life.

"It took me 14 years to build up this business, and now all my work has been wiped out.

"All my personal documents - my family's birth certificates, our passports, bank records, everything - has gone."

'Scrap heap'

Mr Bawa had run his industrial floors and treatments business, IFT Supplies, from a unit on the site and believes he has lost around 150,000 in the blaze.

Nuri Cenk
Nuri Cenk says he will have to restart his business from scratch
Like Mr Johnson, he was also uninsured for fire, saying the high costs of insurance were prohibitive.

He added: "I fear I won't be able to continue working like this at my age and could now end up on the scrap heap."

He said the loss of businesses on the industrial estate would mean a loss of revenue to local and central government and called for help to support the rebuilding of the warehouses that had been lost.

Nuri Cenk, 36, said he has lost around 40,000 of capital in his car repair business in the blaze.

"I am devastated at the moment. I can't really think straight.

"This is like a nightmare that I can't wake up from.

"I will just have to start again from the beginning."

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