Grenfell Tower fire: First victim named as Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali

'He survived Assad, he survived the war, only to be killed in a tower block in London'

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The Independent Online

The first victim of the horrific Grenfell fire has been named as Mohammed Alhajali – a Syrian refugee who came to Britain to seek a “better life”.

A friend of the victim, who was studying civil engineering at the University of the West London, said he lived on the 14th floor of the 24-storey west London tower block.

The 23-year-old sought to follow his brother Omar, who is currently being treated in hospital, down the stairs of the burning building, but was besieged by billows of smoke.

He is said to have been trapped on the floor for two hours while hundreds of firefighters sought to rescue residents, but failed to reach above the 13th floor.

His brother, a 25-year-old business student, managed to escape the tower block and is said to be recovering in Kings Cross hospital.

Describing his friend as “kind, charitable and full of passion for his family”, Abdulaziz Almashi, said: “He survived Assad, he survived the war, only to be killed in a tower block in London.”

Mr Almashi, co-founder of the Syria Solidarity Campaign, met Mr Alhajali whilst working for the organisation, which promotes freedom, peace and democracy in Syria.

“When the fire reached his flat on the 14th floor, Mohammed bid his friend goodbye, saying that the fire had reached him,” the organisation said.

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

“Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him.

“We absolutely agree that a thorough investigation into Building Regulations should take place immediately.”

The brothers escaped from Syria’s southern city of Daraa – the birthplace of the Syrian uprising against Assad – three years ago and were given asylum in Britain.

The Syrian Solidarity Campaign expressed their grief at the news, writing on its Facebook page: “RIP Mohammed Al Haj Ali. A Syrian refugee in the UK, Mohammed passed away in the #Grenfell tower fire yesterday.

“We are heartbroken for his family, who thought he had found safety in the UK. To Allah we belong and to him we shall return.”

The charity made an appeal for the brothers yesterday, saying: “Please pray for our brothers Omar Alhajali and Mohammed Alhajali, two Syrian refugees. They were in the building fire in London yesterday. Both were set to come to our Iftar this Saturday.

“Omar was found in the hospital and he is in stable condition but his brother Mohamed is still missing and his family do not know his whereabouts.”

Mirna Suleiman, a friend of the victim, also voiced her sadness on Facebook, saying: “This beautiful soul was lost today ... as long as many others. His story touched me personally because he had escaped death from Syria and came to the UK to find a new life.”

She added: “We in the UK are not prepared for major incidents. We think it will never happen to us. We’re good at putting loads of rules and regulations and making people pay service charge and housing tax but we’re not good at being practical and planning for the worst.”

At least 17 people have died in the massive fire which ravaged London’s skyline, but the Metropolitan Police said the death toll is expected to increase yet further. Commander Stuart Cundy said 17 people are currently in critical condition and police are seeking to identify and locate the people who continue to be missing.