The fire that tore through an apartment building in London last week has claimed the lives of up to 79 people and caused a huge controversy regarding the lack of safety protocols intact on the night of the fire. It happened just after midnight, when most residents of the 27-floor high-rise were sleeping, but many of the Muslim residents happened to be awake because of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the month-long fast that the Muslim community observes in which they wake sometime before dawn to break their fast, eat a meal, and engage in prayer. The time varies, but many families in the building were awake after midnight while awaiting the meal and were amongst the first to notice the fire.
Khalid Suleman Ahmed, 20, recently moved to Grenfell Tower with his aunt and was living on the eight floor of the building. He recalled the events on the night of the fire in a conversation with HuffPost UK:
“No fire alarms went off and there were no warning. I was playing PlayStation waiting to eat suhuur (beginning of fast meal) then smelt smoke. I got up and looked out of my window and saw the seventh floor smoking. 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 1 family unaccounted for. My next door neighbour was fast asleep….
“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…. 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.”
Witnesses also told Sky News that the Muslim community was a “lifeline” for victims of the fire, as many of them were the ones to alert residents of the fire and helped evacuate those left behind. One local woman told HuffPost UK,
“Muslim boys saved people’s lives. They ran around knocking on people’s doors. Thank God for Ramadan.”
In the aftermath of the fire, local mosques and churches opened their doors to victims displaced by the fire as a temporary shelter. They also began gathering necessary items for victims, such as water, food, clothes, blankets, and sanitary items.
One resident pointed to the diverse and accepting community as the true lifeline for those that made it out of the fire alive. Rashida, a local resident, told Sky News that Muslims were certainly the first responders in the tragedy, and that the fact that it’s a tight-knit community helped ensure that the residents that were awake at the start of the fire cared enough to alert their neighbors.
“It’s a very diverse area, we have all nationalities, all religions. We all live peacefully amongst each other, there is not much crime – [not] higher than anywhere else. You can walk around safely late at night…. Everyone knows each other,” she said.
A moment of silence for the victims was held on Monday morning, as the death count rises and others continue to fight for their life at the hospital while in critical condition. Prime Minister Theresa May announced a fund of $ 6.4 million to help those affected by the blaze and others are turning to crowdfunding to personally help the victims.
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