#Grenfell survivor ‘only passed 8 people on stairs all the way from upper floor’

The SKWAWKBOX had a long and traumatic conversation this evening with a businesswoman based near Grenfell Tower who has friends and employees affected by the terrible fire and has been working to provide support and shelter to them and others.

The woman, who wanted her information to be told but asked not to be identified, told this blog about families who survived and those that didn’t, about the contribution of police and council staff or the lack of it – and about fears that the real death toll could be even higher than the 150-200 that music stars Lily Allen and Saskilla told reporters about.

Her own words, unadorned apart from the removal of names and floor numbers, follow:

There are two children that we know really well who were in the block. One family got out, the father was able to shield their little girl and thank God she’s fairly oblivious to everything that happened. But the other is in hospital, critically ill from smoke inhalation.

Another went missing and was separated from her mum. We heard from mum and found her utterly distraught. She spent the day looking for her daughter and finally found her. Their dog and their neighbour’s dog are missing – we’ve got the kids looking for the dogs, putting up posters so they’ve got something to do and don’t feel so helpless.

The scale of the loss is far bigger than anyone is admitting. One of my employees has 15 friends missing and believed dead. Another has two friends missing.

One of the little girls that got out with her family, she has 7 friends missing, all from [near the top of the block]. Her mum believes they’re the only survivors. At least two of her other friends have already been confirmed dead – one just 13 years old and the other fourteen.

My friend has a son in the same class as those girls. She went back to the block to find one little girl who’s in the hospital now. She’s been collating names of missing people and she’s already up to around two hundred.

200 is the figure everyone is saying locally, but it might be much worse.

One family got out from the [upper third]th floor. A neighbour came out of a flat at the same time but his elderly mum was still in the flat so he went back in.

The dad of that family told me that the whole way down from that floor he only counted eight others coming down the stairs and the firemen coming up were telling people to get back into their flats. That’s no blame on the firemen, they were just doing what they’d been told to do.

There’s burnt polystyrene everywhere – a local builder told me that it’s not from the panels – it’s too thick. He said it’s insulation – there were burning pieces as big as telephone boxes falling down on people as they came out of the block.

Are people angry? On Wednesday they were very silent. Everyone was in shock – nobody was visibly angry, although a lot of people were frustrated at the absence of the authorities.

People were saying they expected things to be more in place for a major incident, given the terror alert, but it was just chaos and we felt badly let down by the council.

Some council people came in but it was obvious they were just there to say they’d been there. They sat around and ate takeaways, then all left promptly at 6pm having done nothing. They had a face-mask on the table and one of the volunteers went to put it on while she went outside and they took it off her, told her that was only for staff – but they never did anything to need it.

My staff have been brilliant, the community has been brilliant. Some of the police have been fantastic but others just seem uninterested. We went with one mother to talk to a policewoman about her missing child and she just shrugged, no empathy at all.

This has been a community under siege in a way. We’re surrounded by £3.5m houses, there’s a little park to walk dogs. All the time we see people moving out because it’s too expensive.

The area started to gentrify couple of years ago. One family I know, they’re the only people in their block – the rest are empty or only occupied one week a year. The idea of requisitioning them to house people that have no home now is spot on.

Theresa May was a disaster. Jeremy Corbyn, though – good for him. I’m not a Labour voter but my friend says he’s the most decent principled politician there is.

Some people have said he was exploiting us for a photo opportunity. They couldn’t be more wrong. He was going around hugging people who needed it, totally genuine and really connecting with them.

Theresa May seemed like she was nervous of angry people – let them get angry if they need to, that’s your job. But there was no anger on Wednesday – just people mucking in.

Everybody I know who made it out, they know all their friends have died. They know – whole floors where everyone died. There are two sets of neighbours that some of my employees knew who are already confirmed.

The media should be saying ‘we know approximately 200 people died’ – there’s simply no question in anyone’s mind locally. But if there were 650 people in that block, it’s a lot higher than two hundred – there were nothing like 450 survivors. There’s a morgue with sixty bodies, just children.

There are around sixty people in the hospitals and the firemen got sixty out – but some of those might be the same ones that are in hospital. The best case would be 120 people who escaped unless there are people I don’t know about and I don’t think there are.

Going back in was the fatal thing – the fire spread so quickly. No fire alarms, just people banging and shouting. One family on one of the higher floors was saved only because the dad wasn’t working the next day, so he sat up late to watch a film. He looked out of the window because he heard fireworks – but it was the insulation behind the panels going up. He believes they were the only family on their floor to make it out.

The biggest need right now? Cash. People literally came out with no cash, no cards, no ID, no passport.. We’ve got plenty of physical stuff for such a small number of survivors – but people need cash to get by.

The people of the Latimer Road area want their stories to be told. Those of us who can, owe it to them to listen.

If you would like to donate to the Dispossessed Fund for those affected by the fire, you can do so here.


  1. Reblogged this on Sid's Blog and commented:
    An avoidable disaster
    Caused by our Nation’s moral compass being switched off by Thatcherism, where greed and gluttony were legitimised, where humans were treated as a commodity,Mito be priced by their “value” (sic)

    1. Hi,
      Is Skwawkbox or anyone reading this able to access the open electoral roll for Kensington and Chelsea and note the residents for Grenfell Tower before it is edited? I ask because the delay in stating the number of survivors could mean they intend to inflate that number with either fictitious names or those of non-residents and consequently drastically reduce the final death toll. I hope I am wrong, but this seems the most logical reason for not giving the number of survivors or the numbers feared dead. The excuse that they do not know exactly how many are feared dead does not wash as the media has given that figure from day one for every tragedy from the Titanic to Didcot. Certainly they always tell us how many survived.
      Yours sincerely,
      P. S. This may be a conspiracy theory but conspiracies have happened.

  2. As of 02:38, the BBC still has these vague, lower-bound figures of only 2 digits: “

    • At least 30 people confirmed dead in Wednesday’s blaze
    • BBC understands around 70 people could be missing – it is likely they include the 30
    Some protesters storm town hall demanding help for those made homeless
    • The PM announces a £5m fund for victims
    • The Queen and Duke of Cambridge visit residents of Grenfell Tower
    Three victims have been named: Five-year-old Isaac Shawo, artist Khadija Saye and Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali
    Twenty-four people remain in hospital, 12 are in critical care
    • Met Police emergency casualty bureau number – 0800 0961 233

    ” – British Broadcastablishment Corporation, retrieved Saturday 17th, 02:38.
        Shame on the BBC!!! The only number there that’s more than 2 digits is the Met. Police emergency telephone number! Why aren’t the BBC mentioning any figures in the hundreds yet?
        24 storeys, 16 bedrooms/storey – Grenfell Tower is a huge building. Locals reckon about 200 people dead! The locals need to be listened to! The people need to be listened to!!
        And given more than lip-service!

  3. Will the truth ever be told. The people must make sure it is. Someone or some people should be arrested once they know the cause of the fire spreading so quickly. Will it actually happen though, I hope so 😥

  4. Absolutely heartbreaking. How dare the media and the government claim and manage others’ grief and not allow the truth to be told. How dare they.

  5. Dear Skawkbox
    Could you please investigate how many people living in the building where private tentants of ex council flats. Usually a landlord that owns only 1 or two properties. Do they have any rights to insurance or even rehousing, if they survived.
    I lived in London ( 1997-2004) and lived in 3 different tower blocks. I rented from Landords that had purchased their council flat at a discount in the 80’s and where living off the rent we paid them ( usually in a foreign country.) The buildings where run by the Council or housing associations. I tried to get involved with tentants associations but had no rights or say, despite living in the building and having to put up with broken lifts, dirty stairwells etc. Many of the tentants in Grenfall Tower were immigrants, and I also know you have very little chance of getting Social Housing as an immigrant, despite what the Media tells you.
    I do feel this is Politically important as private tentants often pay twice the rent then their nieghbours, and have no say ( only the individual landlord has a say) and because these Landlords are usually small time landlords when asked to stump up money for refurbishments do have the resources and would vote for cheaper options ( when I lived in London I knew people from both sides of the Landlord /Tenants divide)
    To me it is another way our housing laws fail people.

  6. We’ve been governed by monsters for too long. We HAVE to get Corbyn in. No-one else has the guts to tackle the greed and corruption. If that’s “party political” then so be it.

  7. If the tenants were told to stay in their flats when they wanted to escape that must be considered as criminal

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: