London fire: ‘Desperately’ worried family search for girl, 12, among the missing
Family members were searching ‘desperately’ for a girl of 12 who is among those who went missing while fleeing the fire at Grenfell Tower.
Jessica Urbano, who lives on the 20th floor, phoned her mother from a fire escape at 1.39am but she has not been heard from since.
Her auntie, Sandra Ruiz, said her family were “desperately worried”.
She was fleeing the building with her father when they became separated. She has not been seen since.
Families were heard screaming for help as flames ravaged the building, with some reported as leaping from windows in a desperate bid to escape.
Others formed makeshift ropes with bed sheets as they tried to scramble to safety, while panicked parents tried to drop children out of windows into the arms of people below.
Arsiema Alula said her sister and nephew were missing. They live in the block and have not been in contact.
She said: “We are desperate. We have heard nothing – we have been calling and calling but nothing. We have no news. We are appealing for information. Please help they are lovely people.”
Negste Semra, 36, another sister said: “I live locally. I saw the fire and rang. My sister did not answer. Someone banged on her door and told her to get out. We don’t know if she left.”
Some residents said they could not hear fire alarms as the blaze took hold in the early hours, with those trapped shining torches and mobile phone lights to attract attention.
One witness, named Joe D, said he saw several people die.
He told BBC Radio London: “I saw jumpers. I saw one jumper jump out, he landed on a fire officer. There was another guy who died in the fire exit.
“Afterwards I spoke to the fire officer, the same one. He had been working right through the night and he said they could only get to the 11th floor, that was as far as they got.”
She said: “It was appalling. People were screaming. A six-year-old girl jumped out. They were images I will never forget.”
Resident Paul Littlejohn, 41, said: “I heard windows popping and screaming. There were people tying sheets together to try to climb down it was pandemonium. A lot of people jumped. It was horrific.”
Another witness, Daniel, said: “They were trapped. They couldn’t come downstairs, especially from the top floor.”
Jody Martin, added: “I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out the window, hearing screams.
“I was yelling at everyone to get down but they were saying ‘we can’t leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad on the corridors’.”
Another witness told how a woman jumped from one of the middle floors as her room was engulfed in the flames.
He said: “She was crying out help, help, help. And then she threw herself down.
“It was horrible.”
David Benjamin was asleep with his girlfriend in the tower when the fire began.
He said he believed it had started in a neighbouring flat.
They only had minutes to flee after someone banged on their door to rouse them, he said.
“We literally had to run downstairs and we got out of the block just in time.
“The fire spread really quickly. I’ve never seen a fire spread that quick before.”
Residents described the panic as people pushed through thick, black smoke filling rooms and corridors as they tried to escape down stairs.
One man managed to flee with his 68-year-old aunt from his home on the 17th floor.
He said: “There were no fire alarms anywhere, because we don’t have a kind of integrated fire system – it’s just everyone’s house for itself. But I could smell the smoke.
“I started looking down the window from the 17th floor, and I see the fire blazing, and coming up really fast.
“The smoke was already strong when I was getting out – god knows how it would have been minutes after.”
Holding his one-year-old baby in his arms, Karim Jackson, 25, said: “I was home on the second floor and they told us there was a fire. They told me stay inside and to close my door.
“I climbed through my window to get out.
“My wife is still traumatised.”
Large numbers of residents were today still unaccounted for.
Saima Hassan, 34, said her best friend Nadia Basin her husband and three children were missing.
She said: “They were on the 20th floor. We have been searching everywhere. How could they have got out? We think they may have been killed. We are desperate.”
Siar Naqshabandi, who lives on the third floor, said he has family living on the 23rd floor and an uncle still missing.
“They were telling people not to leave the building,” he said. “I told them to get down. They said we’re not allowed to get out.”