Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Father Tells of 'Guilt' in Escaping Inferno; but Criticises Emergency Services

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Father Tells of 'Guilt' in Escaping Inferno; but Criticises Emergency Services

Article excerpt

Byline: Wesley Johnson

A FATHER yesterday described how he thought it was "the end" after hiding in a bathroom with five of the six people who died as a blaze engulfed their tower block.

Rasheed Nuhu said he wished he could have done more to save his neighbours' lives and criticised the response of the emergency services.

Six people, including a mother and her three-week-old daughter, perished in the blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell, south London, on Friday night.

Mr Nuhu said he gave refuge to Helen Udoaka, 34, and her baby daughter Michelle before they all hid in the bathroom of his next door neighbour Dayana Francisquini with her three-year-old son Filipe and six-year-old daughter Thais as his 11th floor flat filled with smoke.

Mr Nuhu, his wife, and two children were then filmed by onlookers as they escaped on to a balcony, where they were later rescued by firefighters. All five others died, along with 31-year-old Catherine Hickman who also lived on the 11th floor. Mr Nuhu said he was feeling guilt for surviving while others died and added: "It's almost indescribable to me, the trauma that came out of all this knowing the people we were in there together with died. We could have stayed in there. I did not go outside to try and get away myself. I went out to do something (in) readiness when the need arose. Because of the fireball I saw I had to do something."

Mr Nuhu also said he felt let down by the emergency services.

"I was expecting things like helicopter (to) come and drop a ladder or commando type rescuer," he said.

But the ladder "couldn't even reach us" and he had to wait about an hour and a half to be rescued, he said.

"The moment I thought, 'We're not going to get out of this', was when the ladder could not reach where we were. That's when I thought there was no chance. I thought this was the end."

But Assistant Commissioner Nick Collins said firefighters were at the scene within five minutes of the first call and started tackling the fire immediately.

The single staircase in the middle of the 12-storey 1960s building was at the centre of the investigation after doubts were raised over adequacy of escape routes and fire prevention measures. …

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