London, England – At around 1:05 am on June 14, 2017, 70-year-old Ruks Mamudi woke up in her ground floor flat in Grenfell Tower to use the bathroom.
A pandemonium of noise and screaming drew her to an open window where she often watched the underground tube carriages hurtle through Latimer Road Station.
Unable to see what was happening, she screamed into the darkness: “What’s going on?”
A voice from below shouted back: “Fire! Get out!”
She went to her 12-year-old grandson, Tyrshondre, who lay sleeping in his bed.
“I tried to wake the boy, but he didn’t wake up, so I picked up my bag, my car keys, put on my slippers, and I carried him. I don’t know how I got the energy,” she said from her home in South Kensington. “If there was a fire, there should have been an alarm, but there was nothing. It was only the chaotic noise of people running helter-skelter, screaming.”
When Mamudi opened the front door, she was blinded by black plumes of smoke.
|Ruks Mahmudi, a former resident of Grenfell Tower [Aina Khan/Al Jazeera]|
A few hours later, the blackened skeleton of Grenfell Tower stood on the horizon of west London, an unburied coffin where at least 72 people were killed in the largest fire since the Second World War.As she groped her way blindly to the staircase, she fell. Mamudi and her grandson eventually dragged themselves outside to safety as an inferno raged up the tower.
Within hours, volunteers and aid workers flocked to the disaster site.
Lotifa Begum, an aid worker from Muslim Aid, was among the first to arrive.
The scale of the chaos she saw unfold was unprecedented and required decisive action.
But the response from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council who were responsible for the area was “appalling”, she told Al Jazeera.
“The council did not provide adequate temporary housing in the days following the fire so one of the main response centres, Westway Sports Centre, became a gym full of mattresses,” she said.