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Londis Longport owner tells of trauma of fire at Canterbury Post Office

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

A Londis owner has spoken of her anguish after a "traumatic" fire at her shop in the early hours of this morning.

Grandmother-of-two Kirti Patel, 60, has run Longport Londis in Canterbury for 37 years.

For the last three-and-a-half, she has also operated a Post Office from the back of the store.

Watch footage of the fire outside the post office

She works long hours to keep the services running from 7am until 8pm daily.

But after a fire broke out in bin bags outside just before 2am - just a fortnight after the shop was targeted by thieves - Mrs Patel says she is worried about the future of her store.

Kieran Scopes, 23, one of about six tenants who live in two flats above the shop, says he was alerted to the fire when he smelled smoke from his bedroom.

He said: "It was lucky I was already awake - my whole room was filled with smoke and I could hear bangs from outside so I ran out.

"About six bin bags in the street outside were completely up in flames. I got lots of water to throw on them.

"Then a policeman arrived in a car and jumped out with a fire extinguisher, which put the fire out.

"If I had been asleep, I'm not sure how long it would have gone on for."

The fire broke out in the early hours. Pic: Kieran Scopes (9160642)
The fire broke out in the early hours. Pic: Kieran Scopes (9160642)

Mrs Patel says she believes the fire was started deliberately.

She said: "I know this has happened on purpose. There is a lot of indication.

"They've damaged all my property - the walls outside have been damaged, the smoke has gone into every single room in my tenants's flats upstairs, and smoke has come all through the shop.

"It has been very traumatic for me. It's not good - we are upset that things like this are happening too often now."

The aftermath of the fire (9160495)
The aftermath of the fire (9160495)

Just two weeks ago, the same shop was targeted by a group of thieves who stole more than £300 of stock - which Mrs Patel says she struggled to replace.

"They stole all my toilet rolls, baby food, alcohol, soft drinks, Easter eggs," she explained.

"They took virtually half my shelving away. I am really upset that I didn't have any Easter eggs to sell to my customers.

"I have been working in my shop for 37 years - I have had the Post Office nearly three and a half.

Just a fortnight ago thieves stole more than £300 worth of stock from her shop
Just a fortnight ago thieves stole more than £300 worth of stock from her shop

"I work long hours in the Post Office. I work every lunchtime - we were even open on Easter Sunday. We stay open because people need us.

"But when things like this happen, it does put me off because of the safety aspect.

"I come into work thinking 'do I really need to put up with all these problems?'

"It is really not right for us to come in feeling upset. I want to be a happy face when customers come into my shop, but I am feeling really down at the moment.

Owner Kirti Patel is upset after a series of tragedies have befallen her Londis store
Owner Kirti Patel is upset after a series of tragedies have befallen her Londis store

"It's getting harder and harder to run a Post Office. There are so many being closed - like in Blean, Rough Common and Harbledown.

"When this kind of thing happens, it is just so upsetting and makes it so much harder for me."

"If Kieran hadn't been upstairs the night this happened, I know my shop would have been on fire completely. Luckily, he acted really fast and I give him a big credit."

Police say they are now investigating the fire.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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