Grenfell Tower fire: Brother of victim says concerns over gas works and smoke alarms fell on deaf ears

The residents all complained about 'exposed' gas pipes, says Omar Alhajali

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The Independent Online

The brother of the first named victim of the Grenfell Tower fire has said repeated concerns from residents over the gas works and lack of smoke alarms in the building were ignored.

Omar Alhajali, said residents including his brother Mohammed Alhajali, had “all complained” about gas pipes that were left “exposed” in the building’s central stairwells. 

He told the BBC that at one point gas was “leaking in the building”. 

“It wasn’t working in the flat," the 25-year-old told the corporation. "It was leaking before and then they stopped it. It wasn’t working for a year. Then, the gas company came and fixed new gas pipes on the outside of the wall. They weren’t on the inside. They were very dangerous and they were exposed."

He added: “The residents all complained about it. They were sending messages by post, because it’s not right." 

Mr Alhajali said smoke alarms had been installed in his flat just three days before the devastating fire broke out.

“There were no smoke alarms,” Mr Alhajali said. “Just three days before the incident, they came and fitted smoke alarms in the flat. I was in the flat on that day and the man said: ‘We need to check for fire alarms, so let me fix one for you’.”’

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Mohammed Alhajali came to the UK as a Syrian refugee in search of a ‘better life

The two brothers had come to the UK from Syria as refugees in search of safety and “better lives”.

Mr Alhajali’s brother Mohammed lived on the 14th floor of the 24-storey tower block in west London. 

Omar was brought to safety from the flat by firefighters and thought his brother had been rescued with him. 

“They opened the door, the smoke came inside. I could see the fire around me. They were pushing us, all of us,” he said.

“I went outside and called [Mohammed]. I said: ‘Where are you?’ He said: ‘I’m in the flat.’ I said: ‘Why didn’t you come, they brought us outside, I thought you were with us.’ He said: ‘No one brought me outside. He said: ‘Why you left me?’”

Firefighters were unable to save Mohammed, because they could not reach above the 13th floor. 

Many other residents have said they tried to flag safety concerns to local council members and building managers. 

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The Grenfell Action Group said it tried to warn local councillors and building managers, pointing to a series of blog posts it says “fell on deaf ears”.

Local councillor Judith Blakeman, who lives near the tower and sits on the tenant management organisation of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said she raised the alarm about the National Grid’s installation of exposed gas pipes in the building’s main stairwells in March. 

She told The Guardian the landlord had assured her they would be contained in “fire-rated” boxes, but the boxes appear to have never been installed. 

The tower was originally built in 1974, but a refurbishment project last year brought a number of changes, including the installation of new gas pipes and cladding. 

At least 30 people have died in the massive fire, but London's Metropolitan Police have said the death toll is expected to rise significantly.

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