Muslim residents of London’s Grenfell Tower, who were awake during the night because they were observing Ramadan, helped save lives after a deadly fire tore through the block, witnesses say.
The 24-storey building in the capital city’s west went up in flames in about 15 minutes in the early hours of Wednesday. More than 200 firefighters battled the blaze well in to day light, and officials have warned it will take days for them to search the block for survivors or victims.
A local woman told a gathering outside the block that more people would have died if not for the actions of a number of Muslim boys.
She said the boys knocked on doors, yelling in an attempt to alert residents in the absence of fire alarms.
If it wasn’t for all these young Muslims, young boys round here – coming from mosques … people would have [died]. A lot more people would have [died],” she said.
“People want to talk about them when they do wrong, and all this sort of thing, when they’re doing bad – but when they’re doing good …
“They were the first people with bags of water, giving to people and helping people – running and telling people.”
The height of the fire early on Wednesday, when hundreds of firefighters spent hours trying to get it under control. There were still people inside the tower at the time.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslims do not eat during daylight, instead staying up late and getting up early to do so.
Another resident told The Huffington Post UK that young Muslims made the difference for a number of sleeping families, with the blaze breaking out at the west London tower block just after 1.15am.
“Muslim boys saved people’s lives. They ran around knocking on people’s doors,” she said. “Thank God for Ramadan.”
The Huffington Post spoke to Khalid Suleman Ahmed, 20, who moved to the eighth floor of Grenfell Tower not long ago.
He said he had stayed up to eat before daylight fasting began about 4.45am.
“No fire alarms went off and there were no warning. I was playing PlayStation waiting to eat suhur [the meal that begins the fast] then smelt smoke.
“I got up and looked out of my window and saw the seventh floor smoking,” he said.
Food is distributed near the tower block.
“I woke my auntie up, then got clothes on and started knocking on neighbours’ doors. Every house opened except two – I saw the other guy later on so only one family unaccounted for. My next door neighbour was fast asleep.
“I would be up this late on a Friday night possibly but never a random midweek night unless it was Ramadan.
“There are a lot of Muslims living there and people choose up to stay up and wait so it was certainly a factor for me and others. It probably did save lives.
“The whole corridor went black with thick smoke. I didn’t think it was serious at all. Me and my auntie thought it was an isolated incident but we’d just evacuate just to be safe.
“When we went out and were taken by the firemen to a safer place then we saw that it still hadn’t reached our house – 20 minutes or so later our house was gone.
“The firefighters were very quick. They immediately started work.”