Kids were screaming, people were jumping out of their flats

Thick smoke billowing from Grenfell Tower on June 14, 2017.
Thick smoke billowing from Grenfell Tower on June 14, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

KIDS WERE SCREAMING FOR THEIR LIVES

Ms Samira Lamrani said she saw a woman try to save a baby by dropping it from a window "on the ninth or 10th floor" to onlookers below.

"People were starting to appear at the windows, frantically banging and screaming. The windows were slightly ajar, a woman was gesturing that she was about to throw her baby and if somebody could catch her baby," she told the Press Association.

"Somebody did. A gentleman ran forward and managed to grab the baby."

She added: "I could see people from all angles, banging and screaming for help. Us members of the public were reassuring them, telling them we have done what we can and that we have phoned 999, but obviously the look on their faces was death."

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Her daughter's friend saw a man who had made a homemade parachute and tried to lower himself out of a window.

But many others appeared trapped, she said.

"The more I looked up, floor upon floor - endless numbers of people. Mainly the kids, because obviously their voices, with their high-pitched voices, that will remain with me for a long time. I could hear them screaming for their lives."


BROTHER WAS TOLD TO STAY INSIDE

Ms Hanan Wahabi, 39, who lives on the ninth floor of the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, said she was awoken around 1am (8am Singapore time) by smoke.

"I could see there was ash coming through the window in the living room, which was partially open," she said, sitting with her husband, 16-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter outside a local community centre.

"I looked out and I could see the fire travelling up the block. It was literally by my window," she told Agence France-Presse. "I slammed the window shut and got out."

After the family escaped, she called her brother, who lives on the 21st floor. "The fire hadn't reached the top of the block at that point," she said. "He said he had been told to stay inside, stay in one room together and put towels under the door. I told him to leave. He said he was going to come. Then I called him, and he said there was too much smoke.

"The last time I saw him, they were waving out the window, his wife and children. The last time I spoke to his wife, he was on the phone to the fire brigade. I have not heard from them since, the phone is not going through, the landline isn't going through. That was about 2am."


NO FIRE ALARMS AT ALL

Mr Sajad Jamalvatan, a 22-year-old biomedical engineering student who lives on the third floor, was at a cinema in the nearby Westfield shopping centre with his sister when their mother called to say their building was on fire.

Minutes later, he was in front of the high-rise, and watched a horror scene unfold.

"As soon as I arrived, someone pointed and said, 'Someone is jumping, someone is jumping.' About 16th or 17th floor, we saw a body coming down.

"Seeing people die in front of you..." he stared at the sidewalk as his voice trailed off.

Like several other residents, he told The Guardian: "There were no fire alarms at all."

The fire appeared to spread quickly up the cladding, which he described as "plastic" and which may be PVC, on the outside of the building.

"When I arrived, there were 10 flats on fire. After that, the whole building was on fire.

"It went like that," he said, snapping his fingers.

Police officers would not allow them to go near the building. "I could see it wasn't safe... They pushed us back and pushed us back," he said.

But his mother was able to leave quickly, with only her passport and his sister's passport. "She could see stuff coming from the floor above her, so she was panicking," he said.


LEFT WITH NOTHING, BUT THEIR LIVES

Mr Michael Paramasivan, 37, was asleep on the seventh floor with partner Hannah and her five-year-old daughter when the fire broke out.

He told MailOnline that he woke to the smell of smoke and ignored safety advice to stay inside.

He said: "There was this smell of burning plastic. Everyone was asleep, but I had a look around the flat and checked the sockets, and then I heard screaming. There were shouts of 'it's getting bigger, it's getting bigger'.

"We have been told by the people who run the building that if there is a fire, put a wet towel under the door and wait an hour before doing anything. But the fire was so aggressive, if we had done that, we would be dead. I was not waiting for an hour.

"I had heard there was an explosion in a fridge freezer and it just spread. I heard screaming, and I am told people were jumping from their flats. There is cladding from the building everywhere. It just went up.

"Everything is gone, even my phone was in the fire. We are left with nothing, but we are alive. I am torn because I am devastated that people probably died in that blaze, but I am relieved we are all alive."

His partner's daughter Thea said: "I was really scared, I could see lights and fire on the side of the building. It was really frightening."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Kids were screaming, people were jumping out of their flats'. Print Edition | Subscribe