Outpouring of support for victims of London tower block fire

23rd Jun 2017
Outpouring of support for victims of London tower block fire

(Photo: Islamic Relief)

Naveen Gharyal

Muslims observing Ramadan may have saved many lives in the tower block that caught fire in the early hours of June 14, as many of them were awake, as they had just returned from mosques.

As soon as word got out that a huge fire had broken out in the Grenfell tower block on Latimer Road, West Kensington, Muslims were amongst the first on the scene, helping anyone they could, putting their own lives at risk in aiding others. On Twitter, @sherrifflucy tweeted: “Muslim community who were awake to break fast helped alert residents to #Grenfellfire “Thank God for Ramadan” #GrenfellTower”.

One of the victims of the fire was filmed saying: “If it wasn’t for all these young Muslim boys around here helping us coming from mosques, people would have been dead. There were the first people with bags of water helping us. Thank you Ramadan.”

The large-scale response from the public and relief organisations has been highly effective in providing help and support to the victims of the fire. Local Council was criticised for not being there to coordinate and help the victims. The public donated food, water, toiletries, clothes and other essential items. Volunteers also provided emotional support to the victims.

Many charities were involved from the time the fire broke out: NZF, Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief, Human Appeal, Al-Khair Foundation amongst others as the local council were not able to provide much help.

A team of Islamic Relief volunteers distributed 6,000 bottles of water to survivors and has been working to support and comfort survivors and local families affected by the tragedy. Islamic Relief has provided £10,000 to support those people who have been made homeless by this tragedy.

Zia Salik of Islamic Relief who lives in the area was one of the first ones to be on the site and co-ordinated relief work with a team of volunteers based at Al Manaar mosque to help the victims. “When something like this happens sometimes you do feel a bit helpless, but at the same time we know that some people have lost everything – their homes, their belongings and they’re going to be without shelter for the night. This is why Islamic Relief – and the Muslim community – are here providing support and sustenance to everyone so badly affected by this tragedy, Salik told The Muslim News.

“The mosque underestimated the response they’d get from the public. They had a small room for storage, which has now overflowed to outside.  “Hundreds of people all day have been coming in bringing food, clothing and whatever they can. Indeed, the council has now asked for people to hold off donating any more for now as it has been inundated with so many items.”

Muslim Aid, whose staff and volunteers worked round the clock since the morning of the fire by providing support to families and mobilising volunteers for a long-term strategy. Together with Islamic Relief, they raised over £73,000 for affected families, and have collected over 60 tonnes of supplies.  “I’m so moved by the amazing generosity and support from our volunteers,” said Muslim Aid CEO Jehangir Malik speaking from the site.

Madiha Raza of Muslim Aid said from the site: “The mood is sombre but we have seen an amazing display of unity amongst London volunteers, which lifts the atmosphere.”

Also, various local mosques, Al-Manaar, Al Khoei Foundation, Hyderi Islamic Centre, Dar ul Ummah, were providing aid and support to the victims as well as providing free Iftar, MAB Youth are also offering support, Muslimaat London are collecting emergency supplies as are Children of Adam, and Ramadan Tent Project, 23rd Wembley Sahabah Scouts and many others.

Al-Manaar and Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, which is located near the Grenfell tower block, opened for use as a temporary shelter by those affected by the fire. “Anyone of any faith or no faith is most welcome to walk in to have some rest, sleep, and or have some water and food. Al-Manaar staff and volunteers will also be trying to deliver water, dates, and other emergency essentials to the affected area.”

St Clements Church, a local church, is giving shelter to those who lost their belongings and homes in the blaze. The Rugby Portobello Trust is also accepting donations for residents. Sikh Gurudwaras have also started collecting toys, food and clothes for affected residents. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said there was a rest centre at Harrow Centre, Freston Road.

Meanwhile, a number of individuals have reached out via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to offer accommodation and transport help to those affected. One woman, named Giselle, tweeted: “Just called Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and left my details. They are looking for emergency housing. I have offered my place. Do the same if you can #Grenfell”. Instagram user co.-lams posted an image reading: “Any residents of Grenfell Tower or Lancaster West Estate who need a local place to stay DM me.”

Many people have come together and united following this horrific tragedy, including pop superstar Rita Ora who posted on Instagram: “This is my neighbourhood I can’t believe this is happening. My prayers are with everybody; my heart is beating so fast. I used to play in that block – I want to do all I can do to help”. The superstar was later seen in the area helping in the relief efforts and showing true solidarity and compassion.

@NoelClarke tweeted, “We are making beds for people, anyone who needs a bed or emergency housing come to @WestwaySports W106RP #Grenfelltower #Westlondonstrong RT”.

This shows that people are willing to help others in their time of need and are willing to do whatever it takes to get them through all the pain and anguish of losing everything, including their loved ones and all their possessions. Also, quite shockingly and perhaps quite upsetting, to read was a tweet by @Pollyn1 which read: “Girls from school who lived in #GrenfellTower lost everything and still turned up for their GCSEs next day in night clothes”. This is deeply upsetting as it emphasises the toll this dreadful fire had on children, in particular students, living in Grenfell Tower. Additionally, @BBCNewsbeat tweeted a picture of a young man helping in the relief efforts with the caption: “This A-Level student helped #GrenfellTower residents all night – then sat an A-Level exam”.

People brought newly bought clothes for the survivors. Tweeting, about a Muslim woman in niqab and another in hijab carrying gifts, Lisa O’carroll‏ @lisaocarroll said: “Two ladies who brought toiletries and other goods in lovely gift bags so it would create more dignity. So thoughtful.”

Importantly, it must not be forgotten about who the real heroes were in this catastrophe. The firefighters called to the scene played a tremendous part in controlling the fire, rescuing as many as they could and putting their own lives in danger for the sake of saving the innocent victims of the fire. As @daniellaLaverty tweeted underneath a photo of firefighters lying on the ground in a heap, exhausted from their efforts: “Massively overworked and seriously underpaid. They are the real heroes. #EmergencyServices #GrenfellTower”.

This tragedy has shaken many people and as a result has led people to come together and unite with other citizens and volunteers, doing whatever they can do to assist the victims in any way. @OmzBk tweeted: “Such a great community, black, white, Moroccans, Asians, Muslims, and Christians all sticking together to save one another #Grenfell Tower”.



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