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Families ‘abandoned’ in search for missing loved ones after Grenfell – inquiry

The Grenfell Memorial Wall (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The Grenfell Memorial Wall (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Families were “completely left alone” and “abandoned” by authorities as they searched for missing loved ones in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, an inquiry into the disaster has heard.

Karim Mussilhy, whose uncle Hesham Rahman died in the fire, told the panel on Tuesday that he saw nobody from the council, the tenant management organisation (TMO) or central government helping survivors and relatives in the days after the June 2017 disaster.

Module four of the second phase of the inquiry is considering the immediate aftermath of the west London tower block fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people.

Mr Mussilhy told the inquiry: “I thought we live in a country where the people we vote for and the people that are put in place to look after its people, its most vulnerable people, would help, would come swooping in, and it never happened.

“Our families died in the most public and horrific way possible and here we are five years later with no arrests, no accountability, but yet the ones who were put in charge or the ones who were involved have been able to prosper since the fire.”

Mr Mussilhy described the “madness and chaos” on the morning of June 14 as he tried to search for information about his uncle, saying the streets were “engulfed” with people, including “parasite” journalists.

“This was a massive issue and I feel like somebody in authority, whether it be the council or the police or the Government, should have protected us. There was no protection for us,” he said.

He continued: “Every time I turned every corner expecting to see somebody in a high-vis jacket and a clipboard but I never did.

“It was either people that I knew that lived in the area that came to help or people who had just volunteered their time. Those were the only people I was speaking to.

“Not at any stage during any of this did I see anyone from the council, the Government or anything like that – just the police.

“It seemed that they were more concerned about an uprising or unrest than they were about looking after the families.”

Mr Mussilhy continued: “As the days went on it just became more and more apparent, and more and more frustration, the realisation that we were completely left alone.

“We were abandoned. We were abandoned in the worst way possible while we were looking for our relatives and they could have helped.”

“We were in such a dark limbo for a long time,” he said, adding that they did not find out his uncle was officially dead until August – two months after the fire.

The inquiry later heard how Mr Mussilhy first realised his uncle, who was on one of the top floors of the tower, may be dead when he saw a message on a firefighter’s red t-shirt on the afternoon of June 15.

In his statement, which was read out to the inquiry, Mr Mussilhy said he saw t-shirts that had been placed by the tower with messages from firefighters and one said: “To all those on the 21st floor and above, we are sorry we couldn’t get to you.”

“That to me was the first communication from an official about the extent of the fire and what it was like inside on the night,” his statement said.

Speaking to the inquiry, he said: “The moment when I saw that t-shirt it was the first time that I realised that uncle was probably dead and we watched him burn.

“It was just a heart-sinking moment and I still feel it today – you know, not just for my uncle but for everybody that was on the top floors.

“They were doomed. There was no way they were going to survive. They were left.”