LONDON FIRE: SYRIAN REFUGEE FIRST VICTIM IDENTIFIED

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Mohammed Alhajali...first named victim of Grenfell Tower fire

THE identities of all the people who died in the fire that engulfed the 24-storey residential tower block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday, may never be established, according to the police.

With London emergency services now on their third day of searching for bodies in the burnt-out Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said there was “a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody.”

Asked about the number of dead, Candy said he hoped the death toll would not reach “triple figures”.

So far 17 people are known to have died but officials say that figure is set to rise and possibly exceed 60.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry. However, she has been widely criticised for not meeting survivors of the tragedy when she visited the scene on Thursday.

Grenfell Tower operated a social housing scheme and it is thought that a significant number of residents included Eritreans, Somalians and Syrians.

On Thursday, the first victim of the fire was named as Mohammed Alhajali a Syrian refugee who came to the UK in 2014 and was studying civil engineering.

He became separated from his elder brother, Omar, during the evacuation.

In a statement, the Syria Solidarity Campaign said Alhajali had been in a flat on the 14th floor when the fire broke out, and had spent two hours on the phone to a friend in Syria.

He had been trying to get through to his family while he was waiting to be rescued.

“Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him,” the group said.

In an emotional interview on BBC Omar said he had lost Mohammed on the way out of the burning building while they were being guided outside by the fire brigade. He said: “They were pushing all of us and I couldn’t see anything. When I got outside I called Mohammed and said ‘where are you?’ He said: “I’m still inside. Why did you leave me?”

Other family members have also given accounts of last conversations they had on mobile phones with loved one who were trapped in their burning flats. One Asian man said he had lost five members of his family; his parents and three siblings.

Christos Fairbairn, (41) who lived on the 15th floor said he had collapsed while fleeing the building and had been rescued by a firefighter.

“I shouldn’t be here today but I am, and for that I am thankful,” he said.

Meanwhile Mrs May has come under a barrage of criticism with many commentators, including members of her own party saying the prime minister should have been prepared to speak to members of the public during her visit to the scene.

Unlike Mrs May, both Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, spoke to families and residents.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Michael Portillo said the prime minister “didn’t use her humanity” while Labour MP Harriet Harman said Mrs May “should have been prepared to listen to the residents.”

 

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