23rd October 2017

Two Sierra Leoneans Die in London Fire as Death Toll Expected to Rise

By a press release (15/06/17)

12 people have been confirmed killed in a huge fire that ripped through a west London tower block, with two Sierra Leoneans included.

 

The Sierra Leoneans feared dead were Zainab Deen and her son Jeremiah. Police expect the death toll to rise. (Pictured: Zainab Deen and son still missing feared dead after the fire tragedy).

Francis Deen, 47, said his sister Zainab told him on the phone she had been instructed to remain in her 14th floor flat with her two year old son Jeremiah by firefighters.

He told The Telegraph: "My sister called me to say there was a fire in the tower. I told her to leave by the stairs, but she said she had been told to stay inside her flat. That was in the early hours of today and I've not heard from her since. I fear the worst."

Mr Dean, who works for a distribution firm, said that at one stage a fire fighter borrowed his phone and spoke to Zainab.

"He told her to keep calm and that they were coming to get her. He kept saying that to her again and again," he said. "But then he handed me the phone and said to me 'Tell her you love her'. I knew then to fear the worst. The phone went dead and I couldn't talk to her."

Francis Deen brother of Zainab said: "I don't understand why she was told to stay where she was. I was urging her to escape by the stairs.

"I'm so upset. Jeremiah was a wonderful boy, always happy, always smiling. He loved playing football with me."

Up to 600 people are believed to have been inside Grenfell Tower's 120 flats when the blaze tore through the 24-storey building in the early hours.ve video from inside blazing towe1:51

Eighteen people are in critical care after 79 injured people were taken to hospital. But many are still missing after residents were left trapped on upper floors as flames rapidly ripped up the block after initially being told to stay in their homes.

Residents who escaped spoke of others trapped and screaming for help, with some throwing children from windows and others, jumping from upper floors. Some were reported to have attempted to use bin bags as makeshift parachutes.

Pictures showed flames engulfing the block and a plume of smoke visible across the capital, while others showed desperate residents looking out of windows in the block.

Huge plumes of smoke pour from Grenfell Tower as the blaze rages CREDIT: JEREMY SELWYN/EYEVINE

In a sign of hope, survivors were still being pulled from the block 12 hours after the blaze started - but numbers of those saved are unclear.

As an investigation into the cause of the fire began, residents reported that fire alarms had not sounded and that they were told to "stay put" in their flats and "put a wet towel down by the door".

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: "There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers."Watch live: Fire engulfs tower block in West London

More than 250 firefighters were called to the block on the Lancaster West Estate, in north Kensington, at about 1am. Several firefighters also suffered minor injuries in the blaze.

Confirming the deaths, Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "I can confirm twelve fatalities at this time but this figure is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days. Many others are receiving medical care."

He said it was likely to be some time before police are able to identify the victims, adding that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the fire.

After fears were raised that the block could collapse, fire chiefs said a structural engineer is monitoring the stability of the building, which "continues to be safe for our crews to go and work in".

Meanwhile, an action group claimed their warnings of a "catastrophe" fell on "deaf ears" after highlighting safety concerns three years ago. Stay with us for the latest updates throughout the day.

'If regulations were followed, the Grenfell Tower inferno should have been impossible' Geoff Wilkinson writes:

I am a building inspector and fire engineer with 30 years’ experience. I’ve overseen numerous projects across London, including new builds and refurbishments, making sure buildings comply with the proper regulations, and post-occupation fire risk assessments. Given my experience, I was shocked by the blaze which engulfed Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

At this point in time it’s very hard to tell precisely what went wrong. We don’t know where the fire started and we don’t know how it spread. What we can say for sure is how the building should have performed – and that it definitely did not perform that way. If regulations were followed, what happened at Grenfell Tower should never have been possible, and there are very big question which need to be answered. There are already suggestions that proper planning procedures were not followed.

Normally, British fire regulations assume that fires will start in one location only – and normally, this is completely reasonable. In a big tower block like Grenfell, each individual flat is a fire-tight box from which flames should not be able to escape, and a fire which starts in one tends to stay in it. That is why residents are usually advised to stay within their own rooms and wait for rescue. The fire service should arrive within ten minutes, ascend the building, and tackle the fire where it burns, while other residents sit quite happily in place.

This is also why we shouldn't be disturbed by reports from Grenfell that there was no common alarm system installed. Most residential blocks don’t have common alarms, because they could trigger a mass panic in which everyone tries to evacuate via the same stairwell which the fire service are using to reach the fire. Unlike in a hotel, there are no fire trained fire wardens to safely direct such an evacuation. In the event that a fire grows too large, firefighters might sometimes decide to evacuate the floor immediately above. Otherwise, it’s better everyone stays where they are. That policy has worked several hundred times over the past few years without a problem.

What happened at Grenfell was something else entirely. Firefighters were on site six minutes after being called, which is within expectations. But it is extremely unusual for the fire to spread this far and with this speed and ferocity. Within half an hour or so it had travelled way beyond the first flat, making it very difficult for the fire services to control it. Even more worryingly, survivors have reported that stairwells and lobbies were choked with smoke, which should never happen: there are supposed to be means of clearing smoke from such areas. In those circumstances, “stay and hide” becomes obsolete.

'It was just like the images of 9/11': Firefighter tells of 'war zone' scene at Grenfell Tower. A firefighter who helped tackle the Grenfell Tower blaze has compared the scene to a "war zone".

The emergency worker, called Terry, who spent eight hours working at the scene in North Kensington, said he had "seen nothing like it" during his 27 years with the fire service.

He told LBC Radio: "We had to literally run under police riot shields because of the amount of flaming debris, just to get into the building.

"There was one small staircase that everyone was going up. It was just like the images of 9/11.

"We were going up the staircase and people were coming down in smoke. I don't know how they were breathing."

Terry said he went up as far as the 10th floor, adding: "The amount of kit that this job has absorbed from the London Fire Brigade is unbelievable. It's like a war zone here."

The firefighter, who worked in the aftermath of the IRA bombing at Canary Wharf in 1996, said no amount of planning could prepare the emergency services to deal with a fire so catastrophic.

Describing the carnage and desperation of people trapped in their flats, he added: "One of my colleagues was hit by someone who jumped out of a window.

"To see a whole 24-storey building go up in flames - how does that happen? How does that happen in a first world country? How it happens in London in 2017 is anyone's guess."

Many were moved to tears after a moment of silent contemplation outside the Notting Hill Methodist Church in west London.

Prayers are said and candles are lit outside Notting Hill Methodist Church near the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road.

The Rev Mike Long invited those present to light candles to place on the steps of the church on Wednesday evening.

He then played Amazing Grace on his flute as members of the crowd sang along.

He said: "There are times when all the words we can say are not adequate and sometimes words fail us because no words can do justice to how we feel, or what we have seen or what has happened. Today is one of those days.

Young and old pay tribute to Grenfell victims. "What we can simply do is look to all that we have seen today which is good, which is fabulous - people getting together."

He added: "Let light triumph over all that is rotten, that is desperate and that defies our understanding."

Prime Minister Theresa May said there will be a "proper investigation" following the Grenfell Tower fire, adding: "If there are any lessons to be  learned they will be, and action will be taken."

Mrs May said it was "impossible to comprehend the horror" of what the victims of the fire have gone through.

The tragedy comes little more than a week after Londoners stood defiant in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack, and Mrs May applauded the "incredible bravery" of the emergency services and the reaction of those who helped those caught up in the fire.

She said: "The response of people living nearby who provided help, compassion and support has I think once again shown the fantastic spirit of London.

"Earlier today I ordered a cross-government meeting to ensure that every assistance was being given to manage the emergency service response and that group will meet again tomorrow."

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the response from the community had been an "extraordinary sight". He told the BBC: "As we've seen, and we saw in Manchester as well of course, is just everyone coming together when there is a tragedy on this scale.

"And just outpouring of the most extraordinary love and generosity, and people just getting stuck in - putting their own interests aside. "It's just incredible."

Dr Kostas Tsavdaridis, a structural engineer and Associate Professor of Structural Engineering at the University of Leeds said:

“The fire seems to have not only spread the inside the building but also outside. There is a trend nowadays where architects and designers use decorative materials to make buildings more interesting and aesthetically pleasing.

“Some materials used in facades act as significant fire loads: although theoretically they are fire resistant, in most cases they are high-temperature resistant instead of fire resistant. But even if they are, smoke and fire will spread through the joints and connections. Therefore, although regulations can be met by using sprinklers and fire doors for compartmentation, fire can find a way to spread and expand quickly.

Water is sprayed by fire fighters on to the burning 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower block in Latimer Road, West London on June 14, 2017.

“As more residential and mixed use towers appear on the London skyline, the use of different advanced materials, robust early warning systems and better designs to improve evacuation time-frames and escapes routes should be seriously revisited.

“We cannot have a situation where people's safety is put at risk because of bad or old-type designs or badly maintained tower blocks in code-deficient buildings lead to tragedies like this one in Grenfell Tower. Standardising checks and processes for refurbished buildings and creating formal regulations should be the starting point from today.”

Emergency accommodation has been provided to 44 households affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, the local council has said.

Families with young children, elderly residents and those who are vulnerable have been given "immediate priority", according to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) Council.

The authority said it was helping anyone who needs emergency accommodation and has offered "financial assistance to cover their immediate needs".

Donations outside Latymer Community Church after a fire engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London.

Housing officers will work through the night to provide support for those affected by the blaze, in which at least 12 people have died, it added.

People unable to return to their homes will be offered emergency accommodation at Westway Sports Centre in Crowthorne Road, north Kensington.

Council leader Nick Paget-Brown said: This is a terrible day for Kensington and Chelsea and we are doing all we can to support the victims and their families.

At present all our focus has to be on supporting the rescue and relief operation. But the cause of the fire will need to be fully investigated and we will keep people informed.

A council spokesman also thanked people who made "generous donations of food, clothing and other items", but added: "We would ask you to please hold off for now as we have been inundated with useful items. "When we need donations again we will update via our website and social media."

Anyone concerned for their loved ones can call the casualty bureau on 0800 0961 233, while residents displaced by fire should call 020 7361 3008.

Volunteers who wish to help with the support effort can contact 020 7361 3008.

 

The London Mayor has held talks with ministers about the tragedy. He said: I raised the issue of checks on other tower blocks which have been going through similar refurbishment programmes to Grenfell House, and I welcome that ministers have said checks will now be carried out.

At least 12 people have died after a huge fire destroyed Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, west London, with the death toll likely to rise.

There have been calls for a major investigation amid questions about how the fire spread so rapidly through the block.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton earlier told reporters: "This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale."

Prime Minister Theresa May was said to be "deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life" and newly appointed police and fire minister Nick Hurd will chair a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to co-ordinate the response.

I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life at Grenfell Tower. My thoughts are with all those affected and the emergency services.

 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said "searching questions" need to be asked about what happened, suggesting spending cuts could have contributed to the deadly fire.

He said: "If you deny local authorities the funding they need, then there is a price that's paid."

Built in 1974, Grenfell Tower was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.6 million, with work completed in May last year.

Rydon, the firm that carried it out, said its work "met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards".

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers."

Nick Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough, said: "Clearly, looking further ahead there needs to be a full investigation into the cause of this fire, why it started and why it appears to have spread so rapidly."

More horrific stories are emerging of the people caught up in the tragedy. Samia Badani, 41, was in a flat overlooking the fire and described hellish scenes unfolding behind windows.

"There was a woman who was banging on her window screaming and I saw her just get totally engulfed in flames," she said. "You could hear the screams of the children all the way down.

"We saw there was a woman hysterical in a window and my neighbours were yelling up trying to reassure her.

"She was on about the sixth floor from the top so I don't think she got out. "From about 4am the building has started to shake, if it falls down we are going to be badly affected."

Emergency checks are to be carried out on tower blocks going through the same process of refurbishment as Grenfell Tower, a minister has said.

Policing and Fire Minister Nick Hurd said they wanted to provide reassurance to people living in other buildings as soon as possible.

He said: "We have discussed with the Department for Communities and Local Government, local authorities and the fire service a process whereby we seek to identify towers that might have a similar process of refurbishment, run a system of checks so that we can, as quickly as possible, give reassurance to people."

Mr Hurd said that whatever resources were needed to deal with the situation would be made available.

TRIBUTE: ALPHA SHAW


1958 -1980

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