The first victim of a towerblock inferno in London has been named as Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali. His brother Omar broke down in tears as he told how Mohammed got trapped in the burning block as they both tried to flee their 14th floor home.
Omar, who initially thought his brother had escaped, spoke to Mohammed by phone from outside the block as he watched it engulfed in flames and thick black smoke. “He said: ‘Why (have) you left me…?’ He said: “I’m dying. I cannot breathe,” Omar told the BBC.
“We came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying.” Scores of people are feared dead after the massive blaze tore through Grenfell Tower in West London just after midnight on Wednesday. Mohammed, reported to be 23, came to Britain in 2014 and was studying engineering in London.
The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Mohammed had tried to call his family in Syria during the fire but could not get connected. He had not seen his family for four years. “When the fire reached his flat … Mohammed bid his friend and brothers goodbye, saying that the fire had reached him. He asked them to pass on the message to his family in Syria,” the charity said in a statement.
“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.”
“WHERE ARE YOU?”
The charity said Mohammed had dreamed that he would one day be able to go back and help rebuild Syria. It called for a “thorough investigation” into building regulations, adding: “Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him.”
Up to 600 people lived in the social housing block in more than 120 apartments. The official death toll stood at 17 on Friday but is expected to soar. Firefighters say they do not expect to find more survivors.
Omar sobbed as he told how firefighters led trapped residents to safety through dense smoke as the fire raged around them. “They came in the last minute when the fire was in the next room. They said: ‘Come, come.’ They were pushing us,” he told the BBC.
“I couldn’t see anything. They opened the door, the smoke come inside, I (saw) the fire around me. “I thought they were pushing all of us. I (couldn’t) even see anything, even my fingers, nothing.”
When he got outside Omar phoned his brother, still unaware he had not made it out. “I said: ‘Where are you?’. He said: ‘I’m in the flat.’. He said: ‘No one brought me outside’.”
“I saw the fire in the flat from outside. I was watching the flat – it was burning – and my brother was inside.” The BBC reported that the family are trying to get UK visas for their parents so they can come from Damascus to see Mohammed’s body.