Grenfell Tower fire victim's last phone call to brother: 'Why did you leave me?'

'We came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying here,' says Omar Alhajali

Katie Forster
Friday 16 June 2017 11:06
Grenfell victim's last phone call to brother: 'Why did you leave me?'

The brother of the first named victim of the Grenfell Tower fire has described his final phone call with Mohammed Alhajali before he died.

Mr Alhajali, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee, lived on the 14th floor of the 24-storey west London tower block.

His brother Omar, 25, who was rescued from the flat by firefighters, told the BBC he called Mohammed when he could not find him outside.

“They opened the door, the smoke came inside, I could see the fire around me. They were pushing us, all of us. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t look around, I couldn’t see anything. Not even my fingers,” 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?’”

Mohammad Alhajali

The death toll of the devastating incident has risen to 17, with police expecting the number to increase amid fears it could reach 100. A police commander said it may be impossible to identify some bodies.

Witnesses told The Independent the block went up in flames “like a matchstick”, with the blaze appearing to rapidly spread up the outside of the building.

Mr Alhajali, described by friends as kind charitable and full of passion for his family,” was studying civil engineering at the University of the West London. He and his brothers had come to Britain to seek safety from Syria, where their family remains.

“I was watching the flat. It was burning. And my brother, he was inside. The thing is, we came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying here,” said Omar.

Another brother of the victim, 20-year-old Hashem, told the broadcaster his parents would like to travel to Britain from Syria for their son’s funeral.

“We were doing well, we were settling down in the UK, but then suddenly, everything just collapsed. I don’t think we can cope as we did before,” he said.

“My mum has cried lots of tears when she heard. She said: ‘I’ve been waiting to see him for four years and then he died. At least I can see his grave, his body before they bury him. I want to kiss him, I want to see everything that belongs to Mohammad’.”

Abdulaziz Almashi, co-founder of the Syria Solidarity Campaign and a friend of Mohammed, said he had been planning an event with the student in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox.

Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the disaster to establish “exactly what happened” to let the fire spread too far and too fast for families to escape.

The Prime Minister was criticised for failing to face residents in a visit to the site that saw her talk to firefighters and emergency responders , while Jeremy Corbyn made a separate trip to the scene and spoke directly with residents.

“Hundreds of thousands of people in our country live in tower blocks, very high-rise tower blocks,” the Labour leader said.

“Every single person who lives in a high-rise apartment today is going to be thinking, 'How safe am I?’”

Residents said they had sounded the alarm over issues dating back several years at Grenfell Tower, which was covered in aluminium panels to improve its “external appearance” last year.

Buildings across the UK renovated by the same firm that installed the tower's cladding will now be reviewed, The Independent has learnt.

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