UK

Grenfell Tower inquiry: Fire safety advice like 'waiting in a trap'

Miguel Alves Image copyright Grenfell Tower Inquiry
Image caption Miguel Alves was one of the first people to escape the Grenfell Tower fire

One of the first people to escape the Grenfell Tower said he wished he had warned every floor about the fire.

Miguel Alves and his wife Maria returned to the building from a night out at about 01:00 BST and saw the blaze starting on the 4th floor.

The couple went up to their 13th floor flat to rescue their children, ignoring advice to stay put, saying it was like "waiting in a trap".

Mr Alves said: "It was my duty to help my neighbours, they are my family".

The fire in the early hours of 14 June 2017 claimed the lives of 72 people.

Mr Alves said after reaching his children, his daughter Ines fled the property with just her revision notes for her chemistry GCSE exam, which she was due to take the following day.

The inquiry heard Ines got an A grade in the exam, which prompted the inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick to say it was "astonishing" that she achieved such a high grade after experiencing such trauma.

Image copyright PA
Image caption CCTV showed Mrs Alves getting out of a lift and leaving the building

After getting his two children out of the flat, Mr Alves, who had lived in the North Kensington block for 19 years, knocked on the doors of the five other flats on the 13th floor.

He said it only took about 15 minutes for the flames to spread from the bottom to the top of the tower.

He added: "The people that live on my floor are like family, I wish I had the same strength and to go to the top floor and bring everybody down."

On Wednesday, his wife Maria said she was still haunted by guilt because she hadn't buzzed more doorbells.

One of the doors Mr Alves knocked on was that of Randa Al-Arasi, who also lived on the 13th floor with her husband Mohammed Ahmed.

In a written statement she said she was "quite happily, totally unaware" of the scale of the fire until Mr Alves knocked on their door.

"I was not worried as there was no fire alarms sounding, no sprinklers and no indication of how dangerous the situation I was in was."

When she got to the ground floor "almost half of the building was on fire," she said.

"I could not believe that we were not warned of the enormity of this fire and to get out," she added.

'There was time to evacuate'

Mr Alves said the London Fire Brigade should have evacuated everyone from the tower block immediately.

In his written statement he said: "Looking at the fire on Grenfell Tower, it seemed clear that the fire brigade should have gone to the top of the tower, knocked on all the doors and got people out.

"There was still enough time to evacuate the building and it was clear the fire could not be stopped and that this was the only choice."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Alves said the fire travelled up the tower within 15 minutes

At about 01:30 BST Mr Alves called his friend Marcio Gomes, who lived on the 21st floor with his two daughters and wife, who was eight months pregnant.

Mr Alves said: "He did not leave and said he was waiting for the fire brigade, who had told him to stay in the flat.

"I said that there was no way for him to stay and he had to get out. I was terrified for him and his wife.

"I spoke to him in Portuguese and kept saying if he stayed there he was going to die."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Mr Gomes and his family did eventually escape and were treated in hospital.

Mr Alves also told the inquiry that he took pictures of cars which obstructed the fire crews' access to the tower on the night of the blaze.

He said: "I was really frustrated about this because I had seen it there many times before and had complained to the council that this kind of parking would block fire engines."

During Thursday's inquiry, Richard Millett QC also read out the written testimony of Shahid Ahmed, who described a fireball coming through his flat window after being woken by the fire alarms.

"As soon as I got to the kitchen and looked down out of the window I saw a big fireball coming up from the outside of the building. It was the colour of a burning sunset.

"I initially thought it must have been a fire in the flat below. The kitchen window then exploded inwards. I was lucky I wasn't close to the window."

The inquiry has been adjourned and will continue on Monday 8 October.

To get an in-depth analysis of the inquiry you can download the The Grenfell Tower Inquiry with Eddie Mair on BBC iPlayer.

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