London Fire: Feared high death toll as blaze engulfs tower block
Reports for the scene of the tragedy:
At St Clement’s church on Sidar Road some of those who had been evacuated stood on the street in shock as helicopters hovered overhead.
I spoke to Mahmoud, a 25-year-old refugee from Syria who had come to the UK seeking safety. He lived in Grenfall Twer and was waiting for news of his friend Mohammed, who he last spoke to at 3.30am when he was still trapped in the flat next to the one they shared, desperately trying to escape.
Mahmoud said he lives with two brothers, Mohammed, 24, and Omar, 25, who is in hospital.
Mahmoud had been working and was out when his friend called him to say the tower was on fire.
When Mahmoud, who lives on the 14th floor of the tower with the brothers, got back the fire was small and not on their side of the building, but he watched as it grew and wrapped around the tower.
“I spoke to my friend at about 3.30am. He was saying, ‘Help me.’ My friend who escaped went to one flat and he went to another. They lost each other. I have been friends with them since I was six years old, I don’t know what to do. I am waiting. I hope he is alive.”
I last spoke to [Mohammed] at 3.30am. He was saying, ‘Please help me. Please tell my family I love them.’ He sounded very scared.”
The last time Mahmoud spoke to Mohammed he believes he was in the next door flat with two adults and a baby. Mahmoud said he last saw his friend Omar, who was on the phone to his trapped brother, at Latimer Road station.
“He was talking to his brother on the phone. He was saying, ‘Go downstairs. Don’t listen to anyone, go downstairs.’ I think he was waiting for the firemen to get to him.
Francis Dean, from Middlesex, was at the missing persons centre on Freston Road looking for his sister Zainab Deen, who was with her two-year-old son in her flat in Grenfell Tower last night.
“She called me around about half past one, going two, saying that there was a fire, so I had to drive back here. I was on the phone to her, she was on the 14th floor. She came out of the flat and they told her to stay, but because that flat was on fire she went into the next flat, 113. She was in 115.”
“I was telling her to use the stairs. She was a bit frightened, a bit afraid. But the firefighters were telling her to go back in.
“Their response was too slow; and besides the building burned too fast. This is a new building; when she got the flat they were still renovating it. I don’t think it’s been two years yet, and now fire. Somebody’s got to be held accountable for this.
“It’s not looking good because I was chatting to her about 4am and she was trapped and there was smoke. At one point the son collapsed because of the smoke and I told her: you have to give him mouth to mouth.”
Dean has not spoken to his sister since the fire and is still looking for her. Staff at Freston Road told him to move on to a rescue centre at at Rugby Portello Club.
A woman said she had come with her son to look for his friend. From her home in Kingsnorth House, opposite Grenfell Tower, she had watched the fire as it developed through the night. “I was just praying that my friends and families that I know are out of there,” she said. “I heard the screams.”