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Grenfell Tower fire: Survivor speaks of hope 100 days after disaster

Tiago lves says those who escaped the building are turning to eachother for help and have become "a family of their own"

Grenfell Tower survivors have become “a family of their own” as they try to rebuild their lives 100 days on from the fire, a former resident of the block of flats has said.

Tiago Alves, who started his third year studying physics at Kings College London this week, said he was feeling “optimistic” about the year ahead as he stressed how important it was to stay hopeful during tough times.

He lived on the 13th floor with his family and younger sister Ines, who hit the headlines after scoring an A in the GCSE chemistry paper she sat just hours after she was forced to flee the tower with her revision notes.

The 20-year-old, who is currently staying in a hotel, said: “Most of the bereaved are still going through a very tough situation.

“They’re still dealing with the loss of their loved ones but are also dealing with housing issues, monetary issues, all of this.

“Most of us just want to chat, have a chat with someone who’s experienced - even if it’s just a portion - of what we are going through.

“When you cope with other people it becomes so much easier.

“Grenfell Tower residents have become a family of their own and we try and support each other as much as we can, and of course within every family there are always small disagreements but nothing that can’t be resolved.”

Mr Alves said he had been battling feelings of guilt and helplessness since the June 14 fire and receiving counselling.

He said: “In all this time I’ve never been angry, not properly, properly angry.

Most of my feelings have been feelings of sadness and feelings of guilt.

'Why did I survive, and why did they not?'

“The first four weeks were very difficult for me, because in my mind I was like ‘why them, why not me? Why did I survive, and why did they not ?’" he said.

“That was something I discussed in counselling.

“The worst thing was being at my friend’s house and just looking at all these people and they were screaming for help, they had torches on their phones lit, and waving white sheets and just saying ‘help us, we’re here, we’re here, we’re here’.

Tiago's sister Ines(Image: PA)

“And I was looking at these people and I was like ‘I can’t do anything to help’.

“For a long time I felt as if I was part of the problem. I felt like I was part of the people who weren’t helping.

“Which is why now, after the fire, I wanted to help. If I couldn’t help before at least I could after.”

He added: “It’s difficult sometimes, looking at the tower and just seeing a place where I’ve been so happy making me so sad.”

His memories of another resident Steve Power, who died in the fire, asking him about school and saying it was “the most important thing” whenever they met in the lift, would stay with him “for life”, he said.

Mr Alves said he hoped his and his sister’s stories would inspire others to achieve goals in the face of adversity, imploring survivors and anyone going through tough times to seek help.

'A story of hope'

He said: “Some people from the tower came up to me and said ‘your sister did us proud’. The reason for that, I believe, is that my sister’s story is a story of hope in the midst of all of this.

“And I believe those are the stories that should be told, to show that there is a future outside all of this. Life isn’t all doom and gloom, and hope is one of the most important things, because without hope there is no going forward, no future.

“I hope that my sister’s story is a beacon of hope for people currently living through tough times.”

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