Anguish of taxi driver whose fridge 'started #LondonFire'
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London - A father of one who lives in the flat where the Grenfell Tower inferno is thought to have started has been left devastated by the loss of life.
Behailu Kebede is said to have raised the alarm after flames engulfed his fourth floor flat in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The minicab driver, 44, banged on his neighbours’ doors and told them that his fridge had exploded, urging them to leave the building.
Mr Kebede told the Daily Mail: "I am very upset."
Mr Kebede, who moved to the UK from his native Ethiopia 20 years ago, has been praised by neighbours for waking them up as fire alarms did not go off.
Maryam Adam, who lives two doors down, said her brother woke her up to say Mr Kebede was knocking at the door telling them to get out.
"He knocked on the door as soon as the fire started," she said. "So me, my brother and my friend ran away and I saw that my neighbour’s flat door was open and there was smoke coming from his kitchen. I wondered why the alarm wasn’t ringing and then I ran away in my pyjamas. We thought it would be out quickly and that we’d be able to go back to our homes."
Mrs Adam, 41, who is four months pregnant, told how Mr Kebede was with two women, one of whom ran out with her. She said she saw Mr Kebede and the other woman standing beside a suitcase with clothing draped over it, adding that they did not immediately leave the tower.
Mrs Adam’s brother Yasin added: "The alarm didn’t work so without him maybe my sister wouldn’t be alive. She owes him her life because most of the people were sleeping."
Firefighters spray water onto the Grenfell Tower block which was destroyed in a disastrous fire, in north Kensington, West London. Picture: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Aalya Moses, 57, who also lives on the fourth floor, said: "There was no alarm, no sprinkler or any other warning, just [Mr Kebede] who told everyone on my floor and the surrounding floors. If he hadn’t have told me I wouldn’t have known.
"By the time I got down flames were coming out of next door’s flat. The fire just went wild. There were lots of screams."
Mahad Egal, another fourth floor neighbour, said: "Just before 1am we were eating and just about to go to bed when there was a sudden knock on the door.
"He said his fridge exploded. He was barefoot and he was knocking on doors."
"I knocked on several doors myself and then we went downstairs because we couldn’t take the smoke. There were people with luggage on the stairs. It was hazardous. I live on the fourth floor and the fire started next door to us. So we had a very condensed sense of smoke in front of us. It was horrific."
Mr Kebede’s friend Eshete Meried said the taxi driver was still in shock, adding: "Behailu did raise the alarm. That is what I am hearing. I understand that he’s staying with friends."
Another friend, who did not want to be named, said Mr Kebede has since spoken to the police about what happened.
Missing persons posters lean against railings near the scene of the fire that destroyed the Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington. Picture: Hannah McKay/Reuters
The new Labour MP for Kensington brushed off criticism that she sat on the board of the company accused of ignoring fire warnings over the doomed Grenfell Tower.
Former local councillor Emma Dent Coad – who took the well-heeled constituency from the Tories by just 20 votes last week – attacked the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the body which runs social housing in the area for the council.
But critics pointed out that she herself previously sat on the board of the company. One asked her on Twitter: "How much did you pocket from KCTMO?" The new MP, an architecture critic, replied: ‘Not a penny.’
Her spokesman confirmed she sat on the board as an opposition representative from 2008 to 2012, leaving some six months before the start of the refurbishment programme.
Speaking to the Guardian about the fire disaster, Miss Dent Coad, 62, who lives near the block, said yesterday: "I can’t help thinking that poor quality materials and construction standards may have played a part in this hideous and unforgivable event."