1st named victim of London fire was Syrian refugee – Photo


An acclaimed photographer and a Syrian refugee have been named as the first two victims of the tower block fire in London, in which at least 30 people died.

Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, 23, a civil engineering student who wanted to help rebuild his war-torn homeland one day, was the first victim named.

Alhajali, who lived on the 14th floor, was in his flat with his brother Omar when the fire broke out. The pair were separated during the chaotic evacuation of the building and only Omar survived.

The brothers arrived in Britain in 2014.

His brother Omar broke down in tears as he told of how Mohammed got trapped in the burning block as they both tried to flee their 14th floor flat.

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 said. “We came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying.”

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 said. “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 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, ” said a statement from the group. “Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.”

British photographer Khadija Saye, 24, who recently had her work exhibited at the Venice Biennale, was also named as a victim on Friday.

“May you rest in peace Khadija Saye. God bless your beautiful soul. My heart breaks today. I mourn the tragic loss of a wonderful young woman,” said member of parliament David Lammy, who knew her.

Thirty people are confirmed dead in the fire but that number is almost certain to rise as investigators comb through the wreckage, a process that will take weeks or even months. Up to 600 people lived in the social housing block in more than 120 apartments.

Among the missing is 12-year-old Jessica Urbano, 12, who has not been traced since talking to her aunt Sandra Ruiz at around 1:40am.

“She was with a group of people in the fire escape, in the fire stairs, they live on the 20th floor,” said Ms Ruiz. “She would have been in her bed clothes and she will be very, very, very scared. We’re just desperate to find her.”

Farah Hamdan, her husband Omar Belkadi and their six-month-old daughter are still unaccounted for, according to Farah’s father, Rkia. The couple’s two older daughters have been found in hospital.

Source: thenational.ae

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