Many of the residents of Grenfell Tower—a 24-story housing block in West London which was engulfed by a massive fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning—may have had their lives saved by Muslims in the area who happened to be awake because they were observing the holy month of Ramadan.
The Telegraph gathered several eyewitness accounts from Muslims living in the area, including Rashida, who originally spoke to Sky News:
She said: “Most Muslims now observing Ramadan will normally not go to bed until about 2am maybe 2.30am. Until they have their late night last meal. They do their last prayer. So most of the families around here would have been awake and I think even with the noise, with the helicopters, it would have brought a lot of attention to a lot of residents, non-Muslim as well, that would have thought something’s going on that’s not quite normal.”
Rashida also emphasized how diverse and tight-knit the Grenfell community is.
A HuffPost UK video featured a local woman outside the tower Wednesday morning saying “Thank God for Ramadan.”
“Muslim boys saved people’s lives. They ran around knocking on people’s doors,” the unidentified woman said. “If it wasn’t for all these Muslims boys round here helping us, coming from mosques, people would have [died]...they were the first people with bags of water, giving to people. Helping people.”
BuzzFeed News spoke to a Muslim couple who noticed the fire coming from the bottom floor of the building at around 1 AM:
His wife said she did not know who first raised the alarm, but said Muslim residents were among the first to notice the fire, as they were awake early for their pre-fast meal for Ramadan.
“They saw it just after they woke up to eat,” Yousuf said.
The early warnings from Muslim neighbors may have been the difference between life and death for some residents. Several locals reported that there were either no fire alarms, or that they were very faint.
As Zeinab Jafari, who lived close to the Tower, recounted to BuzzFeed:
Jafari said that many residents slept through the first signs of the fire and were not woken by any smoke alarms.
She said: “There was no warning, nothing, nobody knew. People were sleeping while the building was on fire.
“I heard fire engines but we didn’t hear any fire alarms.”
The fire, which lasted more than six hours, has claimed at least 12 lives so far, with the death toll expected to rise as officials complete a full search of the building. According to the Guardian, over 250 firefighters worked through the night to put out the blaze.