Tribute to Manchester Chinatown homeless fire victims

Man looks at burnt out building
Image caption A friend of the men who died in the blaze says they were "two of the nicest guys you'll ever meet"

A friend of two rough sleepers killed in a fire has said he would have died with them if he had not found accommodation days before.

The man said the pair - named locally as Wayne and James - took refuge in a derelict building in Manchester's Chinatown because they kept being moved off the streets.

He told how they would share food and bedding with other rough sleepers despite having nothing themselves.

The two men were found dead on Friday.

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Media captionTribute paid to two homeless men who died in a fire in Manchester Chinatown

"I slept up there. It's madness to think they're gone," the man, who wished to remain anonymous, told North West Tonight.

He said he spent three months in the building on Nicholas Street with the pair, who went by the nicknames Uncle Albert and Popeye.

"They were two of the nicest guys you'll ever meet," he said.

"I had nowhere to sleep and 'Uncle Albert' gave me his sleeping bag. Buffet bars would give out food and he'd dish it out to everyone."

"He was like a dad to me."

The man said 'Popeye' was due to go back home to Ireland where he had a wife and family.

"I got emergency accommodation three days before or that could have been me."

He added: "Nobody deserves to be like that. This should be the final crunch.

"A few years ago a man was set on fire in a tent. It's time somebody stepped up."

Yvonne Hope, director of homeless charity Barnabus where the men went for food, showers and clothes said she hoped the deaths might prompt offers of help.

She said: "I hope someone will have it in their hearts to give a building, money, open doors to do something about the accommodation."

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