The latest tragedy to befall the people of London has been the worst yet. Having endured two terrorist attacks in the last year, now an accidental fire has claimed more lives than the last two incidents combined. On June 14 in the West London Borough of Kensington, the Grenfell tower block, a 24-storey block of apartments, suddenly caught fire during the dead of night. Many residents were left trapped inside building, which quickly filled with smoke, while torrents of flame barred any escape.
A large number of firefighters, approximately 40 fire engines and a large number of police investigators, paramedics and ambulances were summoned to the scene, but the human cost has still been utterly devastating.
Around 600 people were estimated to have been trapped inside the tower block, and of those 600, 30 people have been declared dead by forensics, and police investigators and firefighters suspect that the death toll will likely increase in days to come. A further 70 individuals are still missing, most presumed dead, and while the search goes on for more bodies or survivors, the remains of three victims that have already been recovered are being identified and their names made public.
Khadija Saye was a 24-year-old artist and photographer, whose artwork is currently on display in the Venice Biennale. She lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower with her mother, Mary Mendy. Khadija’s work in Venice is based on Gambian spiritual practices and is being shown in the Diaspora Pavilion. Before her death she wrote in a Facebook status: “It’s been a real journey, tears shed, highs and lows, but mama, I’m an artist exhibiting at the Venice Biennale and the blessings are abundant!”
Labour MP David Lammy confirmed her death on Twitter, sating: “May you rest in peace Khadija Saye. God bless your beautiful soul. My heart breaks today. I mourn the tragic loss of a wonderful young woman.”
Isaac Shawo is currently the youngest identified victim at only five years old. His mother described him as a “beautiful boy” in a interview with The London Evening Standard. Isaac was a pupil at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School, and lived in Grenfell Tower with parents Paulos Petakle and Genet Shawo, as well as his three-year-old brother brother Luca.
Mohammed Alhajali was a Syrian refugee, who came to the UK to escape the atrocities committed by ISIS in his homeland in 2014. Alhajali was studying civil engineering while living in London. The Syria Solidarity Campaign stated: “[He] undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.” Alhajali had living in a flat on the 14th floor with his brother Omar, but died after the pair became separated as they attempted to escape the burning building.
Our thoughts are with all those affected by this incident, as well as their friends and families.