Grenfell Tower fire: 'We woke them up to die' says witness who tried to warn residents of danger

'I wonder now if they might have been better left in their beds,' he says

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The Independent Online

“We woke them up to die,” a man who tried to warn Grenfell Tower residents of the devastating fire has said.

Alan Kempthorne, 52, said he spent most of the night outside the emergency cordon in north Kensington as the block burned in the early hours of Wednesday.

At least 79 people are missing, presumed dead, after the 24-storey block was incinerated, police said on Monday morning, adding that figure may change.

Mr Kempthorne said: “We were making as much noise as we could outside to wake people up, but we woke them up to die. I wonder now if they might have been better left in their beds.

“I went to help and we were helpless,” he told The Observer.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she could understand the “absolute frustration and misery” of people concerned about loved ones who had not yet been identified, but that it was critical to go through the process properly.

She added: “There are people in there, obviously, who have been subject to a very intense fire, and that will make some of the identification very difficult, which is why it's even more important that we make sure we do this in a measured, careful and very well managed way.”

Ms Cotton added that it might be “some days yet” before firefighters could say they have reached everyone in the building.

She also defended the fire service's advice for people to stay in their flats during tower block fires, saying that evacuating these blocks for every small fire would cause further injuries and hamper efforts to put out smaller blazes.

“What we don't know at this time, and we won't know until the investigation concludes, is why the fire spread in that absolutely unusual and extraordinary way in that building,” she said.

“Until we do that, we cannot look at anything other than staying with the same advice, which has kept people safe in their buildings.

“I do understand for the people of Grenfell Tower that is no consolation, but if we were to change that advice now and have everyone evacuating through single staircases, it would cause more problems and more injuries.”