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Grenfell Tower fire: Survivors recount harrowing escape from 21st floor in BBC Newsnight film

The 32-minute film airs on Wednesday (September 27) night

A film piecing together for the first time what happened to residents across the whole of one of the highest floors of Grenfell Tower the night the tragedy unfolded will be aired on Wednesday (September 27) night.

With detailed testimony from a number of the survivors as well as relatives and friends, the BBC Newsnight’s film tells how six residents of the 21st floor died and nine survived.

The 32-minute film, the latest in Newsnight’s series of in-depth reports on the disaster, includes six survivors from the floor providing a vivid account of life in the tower and describing what happened to them and their neighbours on the night of June 14.

Newsnight’s special correspondent Katie Razzall spent weeks speaking with Helen Gebremeskell and her 12-year-old daughter Lulya from flat 186, and Marcio and Andreia Gomes who lived in flat 183.

Helen, Lulya and the Gomes family, which includes their daughters Luana, 12, and Megan, 10, survived two hours in the Gomes’ smoke-filled flat before escaping when it caught fire.

But Mrs Gomes lost the child she was carrying later that day when Logan was stillborn - the youngest victim of Grenfell .

Their story reveals:

  • How they were told by firefighters to remain in their property
  • How hours later they climbed over the bodies of other residents as they felt their burning flat and made their way down the smoke-filled stairwell
  • Children from their floor were treated for cyanide poisoning

Like most of Grenfell, the 21st floor housed four two-bedroom flats and two one-bedroom flats arranged around a central hallway, with the lifts on one side and the staircase on the other.

Also living on that floor were the El Wahabi family, who all perished, and pensioner, Ligaya Moore, also died that night.

The residents have shared photos of their flats before the fire and Mr and Mrs Gomes speak of the tower that was their home for 10 years.

“It was great. The rooms were big,” said Marcio.

“There were kids on every floor, of all different ages. The corridor space in between the flats, even though it was very small, they would play tag, or ride their scooters or play football.

Tributes to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster under the A40 flyover in Kensington(Image: PA)

“We’ve seen a lot of those kids grow up and become young women and men, and move on and get a job.”

“You’d get to see different cultures. You’d go up in the lift with lots of different people, you’d talk, the kids would play.

'It’s been portrayed as a poor tower, a broken tower. It was far from that'

The tower itself was a community , it was very family orientated. It’s been portrayed as a poor tower, a broken tower.

“It was far from that.”

In response to comments about the advice given to residents that night, the London Fire Brigade says: “The Grenfell incident was an unprecedented fire and due to the ongoing investigations we cannot go into details of what happened on the night.”

The film is broadcast on BBC Newsnight on Wednesday (September 27) evening from 10.30pm on BBC Two and 11.15pm on the BBC News Channel.

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