‘It was simple: escape, or stay and die’
The blaze that broke out at Grenfell Tower in London on 14 June this year is etched in the minds and memories of witnesses.
But for those stranded inside the burning block of flats, the trauma of the fire – which claimed up to 80 lives – will stay with them for ever.
One man, our best Hero, Farhad Neda, was trapped on the 23rd floor with his mum and dad. Very few people escaped from the upper floors.
But this daring and brave young man carried his disabled mother down 24 flights of stairs to safety.
Farhad, 24, a mechanical engineering graduate, says modestly, ‘I don’t think of myself as a hero. I don’t feel brave that I carried Mum down the stairs. It was simple: give it a go, escape, or stay here and die.’
The first Farhad knew about the fire on that fateful night was when his mum, Flora, 55, smelt burning.
‘ We didn’t think much of it, because the fire alarms weren’t going off,’ he says.
‘I called the emergency line and they told me that they had an engineer on the way. But then we saw our neighbours from downstairs banging on the doors, telling everyone to get out. They said, “There’s a fire, and there’s no way out.”
‘There were signs next to the lift saying to stay put,’ continues Farhad.
Still inside the flat, they telephoned other neighbours who had already escaped.
‘They were right next to the fire brigade, and I asked them, “What are they instructing us to do?” They just kept saying, “They’re on their way up. They’ll come and get you. Stay in your flats.”’
But when flames began licking the windows and the bedroom caught alight, Farhad’s mum threatened to jump from the window. She was terrified of burning alive. Farhad grabbed her and went into the smoke-filled hallway.
‘ We thought we were 100 per cent dead at that stage,’ he recalls. ‘There was so much smoke that I didn’t let go of Mum. If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to find her again.’
Flora tried to persuade her husband, Saber, 57, to go with them. The last thing she remembers is him saying, ‘I’m behind you.’
Farhad is convinced his dad stayed behind to help other neighbours. He says, ‘Four ladies had come into our flat, and Dad wanted to help them get out as well. He wouldn’t have left anyone behind.’
In the hallway, the pair faced a terrifying scene. Flora suffers from a muscular condition called myasthenia gravis and, knowing she could never manage the stairs, Farhad hoisted her on to his shoulders.
‘ We literally couldn’t see anything. When you got down to a certain level, you were gasping. There was thick smoke everywhere.’ Then, suddenly, a miracle… ‘ We saw the door to one
Grenfell in the aftermath Dad Saber lost his life