Mother who fled burning tower block with child says safety warnings ignored
A WOMAN forced to flee the burning Grenfell Tower with her young child has claimed their warnings that a refurbishment posed safety risks were ignored.
Turafat Yilma, a resident on the building's seventh floor, was awoken by a call from her neighbour on the 17th floor telling her to escape.
The dense smoke filling the corridors meant she was unable to get to safety with her son Abem (5) and husband until the fire brigade arrived.
"There was no fire around at all and after around 40 minutes a friend of ours called us from the 17th floor to tell us to get out - there is a fire," she said.
"I tried to escape but the smoke was so heavy, so we thought just call 999 because I could not use the staircase.
"A fireman came and knocked on the door and all of us just had to follow them, my husband carrying my son and just me, it took us less than five minutes.
"I wasn't aware the fire was so large until we came outside.
"The flames were from the fourth floor and it just went up 10 floors and it was really bad at the time, it was really really bad.
"I was thinking just through this with us all alive, nothing that we have, all our belongings, were important."
She said along with neighbours they had flagged concerns to the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation about the building's recent revamp.
"When this was refurbished a year ago we were against it for safety, this was our worry - if one fire started this place would go down and that is what has happened.
"They didn't listen, we even went to the MP, Victoria Borwick, we had quite a few meetings - this is what happens."
Other residents also said yesterday that their safety concerns had previously fell on "deaf ears".
A blog post from Grenfell Action Group in November said that "only a catastrophic event" would expose the issues. It said there was only one entry and exit to the tower during improvement works at the block in Latimer Road and it had issues with evacuation procedures.
After the fire, the group posted: "All our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time".
The group claimed access to the building was "severely restricted" for emergency services and other vehicles and residents were advised to stay in their flats in case of fire.
The tower block was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.7 million, with the exterior of the 1970s-built tower modernised, with cladding and replacement windows, while additional homes were added using vacant space in the building.
But a 17th floor resident, identified as Methrob, told LBC Radio the "real issue was when it caught fire to the cladding outside". He said residents had been concerned about safety, adding there had been warnings "for over a year".