On 13th June, a terrifying fire broke out at a high-rise apartment block in West London, leaving hundreds of residents stranded and terrified.
The 24-storey Grenfell Tower caught on fire around midnight, and was still blazing into the early hours of this morning.
Residents were desperately trying to escape, after firefighters declared it extremely difficult to break into the building to save people, given how tall it was and how quickly the fire was spreading.
One of those residents to escape was 16-year-old Ines Alves who was forced to flee her 13th floor flat with her family as the blaze began to rip through the building.
The school girl is a student at Sacred Heart School in Hammersmith, and had an important GCSE exam to sit the following morning. So, after taking refuge with a friend overnight, Alves made her way to school as normal for the 9am registration. The determined teenager, who had no choice but to turn up at school in the clothes she’d been wearing when she was forced to flee her home in the early hours of the morning , said the exam was particularly crucial for her future, as she wishes to take the subject to A-level.
“It was my Chemistry GCSE and that’s what I want to do in my A-levels next year so I thought maybe it was necessary to do it.
“It was still really shocking and it hadn’t hit me yet, it still hasn’t completely hit me that we’ve lost our house. But I still managed to think through in my exam and do it. Considering I hadn’t looked over my notes I think it went fairly well.”
Talking of her family’s miraculous escape from the blaze Ines said, “I put on my jeans and a top and just grabbed by phone and chemistry notes,” Ines said. “I was trying to revise while we waited downstairs as we thought it was a small fire at first but it was impossible.
“At the sixth floor we notice smoke and, by the fourth floor we reached fire fighters. We asked if everything is ok, they said ‘you didn’t need to leave but now you have you may as well go outside’.”
One local mother tweeted that other girls from her 13-year-old’s school who had lived in Grenfell Tower had also still turned up to sit their GCSEs next day. Despite losing everything in the early hours of the morning and witnessing the tragedy, they arrived at school, still in their nightclothes that they were wearing when they were evacuated from the building, in order to sit their important exams.
As well as stories of heroism and remarkable perservarance,there are also tales of miraculous escapes and, sadly, terrible tragedy.
One resident took to social media while the building was on fire to live tweet her escape.
The woman, whose twitter handle is @rsrzy, first tweeted at around 2am to tell her followers that she was trapped inside the burning block, after retweeting someone who was reporting the news.
I’m stuck in this block!!! Can’t leave my house because I’ll die from the smoke – – (@rsrzy_) June 14, 2017
Her tweets continued coming in thick and fast, with the second going live as she admitted she had no idea how to make her escape.
guys I don’t know what to do. I’m stuck in the block
– – (@rsrzy_) June 14, 2017
The woman then told how people around her were jumping from their windows to escape, but explained that it wasn’t an option for her because she wasn’t able to leave her house.
panicking because people are jumping out the window and I can’t leave my house at all
– – (@rsrzy_) June 14, 2017
The horrifying tweets promted quick responses from people on Twitter, who were attempting to give her advice about what to do.
And some were also clearly from friends, panicking about how she was going to leave the building…
Finally, at around 2am, she tweeted a picture a distance from the burning building to let people know that she had made it out of the building and was, thankfully, safe.
This morning, she revealed that her tweets were a quick-thinking attempt to save her own life and those around her, admitting that “social media news spreads fast”.
Sadly however, it seems some others haven’t been so lucky. George Clarke, a presenter, told Radio 5 Live about how he heard the fire from his flat across from the blaze.
He said, “I was in bed and heard ‘beep, beep, beep’ and thought, ‘I’ll get up and run downstairs as quickly as I could’.
“I thought it might be a car alarm outside and saw the glow through the windows.
“I’m getting covered in ash, that’s how bad it is. I’m 100 metres away and I’m absolutely covered in ash. It’s so heartbreaking, I’ve seen someone flashing their torches at the top level and they obviously can’t get out.
“The guys are doing an incredible job to try and get people out that building, but it’s truly awful.”
And devastated residents of the tower block who managed to escape have also begun to share their stories. One resident told a horrific tale of how a woman who left one of the upper floors with her six children reach the ground floor, only to find that two of them were missing.
Samrina Lamrani also told reporters how she saw a mother throw her baby to safety from the ninth or tenth floor: “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 [asking] if somebody could catch her baby.
“Somebody did, a gentleman ran forward and managed to grab the baby.”
Of course, the survivors of the tragedy were forced to leave with just the clothes they were wearing for bed, meaning many hundreds of people have lost everything.
But you can help. Places where you can donate items such as clothing, toys and food have been set up around London, including St Clements Church, in Tottenham.
The same has also been set up at The Harrow Club in West London. Donations can be dropped off at 187 Freston Rd, London W10 6TH. The Rugby Portobello Trust have done the same, and donations can be dropped at 221 Walmer Rd, London W11 4EY.
However, if you’re not in London, you can donate to a fundraising page set up by Karolina Hanusova, which already has over £25,000 worth of donations.
The London Fire Commissioner has this morning admitted that she’s never seen anything like the blaze before.
She said, “This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale.”