Friends of a Norbury mechanic left homeless after a devastating fire burned his caravan to the ground have pleaded with Croydon Council to help rehouse him.

Rafique Muhammed, 59, “lost everything” when flames ripped through the car storage yard in Norbury Crescent earlier this month, despite nearly 50 firefighters battling for more than three hours to control the inferno.

A total of five vehicles, including Mr Muhammed’s caravan, were incinerated in the fire, which also destroyed a nearby railway embankment and forced the evacuation of more than 40 people from their homes.

The mechanic had only recently purchased the caravan, after doctors warned him that three years of living in his car repair workshop had damaged his health.

Now Mr Muhammed has been forced back to sleeping on the workshop floor and, after losing at least £500 cash in the fire, friends struggle to see how the “simple and honest” mechanic can go on.

Anis Thohan said: “We don’t know how he can survive. It’s a small business, and he has not any family here.

“This old man is alone and single. He’s very honest and I don’t know what he should do.”

Mr Muhammed, who is from Pakistan and speaks limited English, was having dinner with friends at Mirch Masala in London Road on August 17 when a bonfire in the car yard flared out of control at about 10.30pm.

Jagrood, a customer at the mechanic’s garage, said: “The caravan is totally burned. At the moment he has nowhere to live – it’s a big problem.

“It’s not a good situation. He’s sick.”

Mr Muhammed suffers from asthma and diabetes among other health conditions, according to Jagrood, who had bought the mechanic a mattress to sleep on in the garage after the fire.

Jagrood added: “I treat him like my father.”

According to Croydon Council, government legislation means that the authority cannot not offer Mr Muhammed accommodation because he has a home in Pakistan.

A council spokesman said: “National legislation makes it clear that if a person owns or has use of a suitable property anywhere in the world where it is reasonable for them to return to they cannot be deemed homeless.”

Mr Thohan pleaded for someone to intervene.

He said: “He went to the council and they said they haven’t got any property for him. He’s very simple and very honest.

“He’s lost everything.”

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