Grenfell firefighters gave residents false hope which cost lives: survivor

Firefighters “fatally let down” the residents of Grenfell Tower by giving them false hope that a rescue was possible, a bereaved survivor has said.

Farhad Neda carried his mother Flora down from their home on the top floor of the block as the inferno raged on June 14 last year.

They were the only two survivors from the 23rd floor, with Mr Neda’s father Mohamed among the victims.

Mr Neda gave a withering assessment of the fire brigade’s actions when he appeared at the Grenfell Tower inquiry on Thursday.

Mohamed Neda
Mohamed Neda

Residents were told for nearly two hours on the night of the blaze to remain within their homes – advice it is feared cost many lives.

Mr Neda and his family were among those who believed they were better off awaiting rescue, until it became apparent their situation was dire.

The survivor told a hearing at Holborn Bars: “Having been in the fire that night and not knowing what was going on outside or on the other floors of the tower and having heard the testimony of the firefighters, I feel that the residents were fatally let down.

“Having been in contact with the firefighters outside while I was inside the tower, I was on several occasions told that they were on their way to get us and I feel that this was false hope.

“I feel it is the false hope which prevented quite a number of people from escaping the tower that night.

“The image that we had being in the tower was that the building was swarmed with firefighters, enough for everyone to have some assistance, not just a few people that were on the lower floors.”

Farhad Neda and his mother
Farhad Neda and his mother

Rescuers had been forced to abandon travelling beyond the 11th floor when the fire reached peak ferocity.

The majority of the victims were clustered in the uppermost levels of the block.

Mr Neda continued: “I feel that if we were told the truth, if, even after the point when the firefighters knew that they wouldn’t be able to reach those that were on the upper floors, if they would have just told us that ‘there is nothing we can do, do whatever you can’, at least people would have had time to make a decision for themselves to get out or to stay in the building.

“I feel that it was too late to make any decision once they were trapped.

“Even if those who were trapped beyond the point of having any way to escape, if they knew that the firefighters were not coming to get them or if they didn’t have any way of escape, they could have at least prepared themselves for what was to come.

“They could have at least prayed if they are a religious person, they could have at least prepared themselves for the pain they were about to go through.

“I think that is quite important and I think the key word in it is false hope.”

Grenfell Tower fire
Grenfell Tower fire

Following his evidence, inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said: “I’m sure your father would be very proud of you.”

Mohamed Neda was a chauffeur who moved to the UK in 1998 and was regarded by his son as his best friend.

Farhad Neda said in a separate written statement that his father had stayed behind to help other residents who were sheltering in the family’s flat to prepare for an escape.

Four neighbours were with him when he died – mother and daughter Mariem and Eslah Elgwahry and sisters Fatemah and Sakina Afrasiabi.

His son said: “No words can convey the sadness knowing that all five died in the fire. No words can convey the loss of my dear dad.

“However, I am extremely proud of him. He gave those ladies comfort and encouragement when all hope looked lost at the top of Grenfell Tower.”