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6 Months Later, Cedar-Riverside Fire Victims Feel Forgotten

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(credit: CBS) Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It was half a year ago Tuesday when a fire erupted through the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. It was early New Year’s Day morning when an apartment building exploded into flames.

WCCO got to the scene moments after. Some people jumped for their lives, some were rescued by ladder as firefighters fought the flames in below-zero temperatures.

Three people lost their lives six months ago, but for others that day was only the beginning of the pain.

Green now covers the ground on the block, and the temperatures have changed by roughly 70 degrees. But the summer season this year, despite the climate, offers little hope.

Hersi Hassan lived through a fire that may have even caused onlookers nightmares. He says he continues to have bad dreams, and now cannot work.

The same is true of his former cafe co-worker, Chef Ali. The lively cook spent months in a coma, had a kidney removed and severe burns. His friends say he was thrown out with his bed when the explosion happened.

With the help of other local Somali leaders, Minneapolis School Board member Mohamud Noor has been trying to help bring solace to this immigrant neighborhood, but it’s not working.

“One of them visited me today and said, ‘We’ve been forgotten,'” Noor said.

After the fire happened, Hennepin County chipped in, as did the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and a number of strangers. But as the images faded from peoples’ minds, so did the money. Of the $50,000 raised total, they spent $18,000 of it on three funerals.

“If you look at the pool of fund we have, we have issued almost all of it, but the need is huge,” Noor said. “We want to help them but we cannot afford to do that, we don’t have that capacity.”

With limited language skills, immigrants often opt for physical jobs. Many of the Cedar-Riverside victims have lost their mobility — like Chef Ali, who said he has no income and no house.

“I have no hope. I’m just living,” he said.

Hassan is in a similarly difficult position.

“I don’t have money,” he said. “They give me $200 a month.”

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