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Telegraph.co.uk: Young girl who escaped fire draws heartbreaking image of the blaze

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Saturday, 17 June 2017

Young girl who escaped fire draws heartbreaking image of the blaze

Telegraph.co.uk

Yohana Yohannes, 6, draws a picture of her home on fire
Yohana Yohannes, 6, draws a picture of her home on fire Credit: The Yohannes family

Henry Bodkin
  • Victoria Ward
  • Camilla Turner
  •  

    A six-year-old girl whose desperate mother battled thick smoke to carry her down 19 floors to safety has drawn a heartbreaking picture of the burning Grenfell Tower as she tries to come to terms with the tragedy.

    The expressive pencil drawing by Yohana Yohannes, who has barely slept since the blaze, depicts her home engulfed with red crayon flames and several residents at the windows.

    In childish hand, she wrote: "Grenfell Tower burnt! Very bad tower and very bad quality. Watch the news to see more."

    Her father, Yohannes Tesfaye, said: “I encouraged it. I think it helps."

    Yohana’s mother, Meron Mekonnen, 36, has described the moment they made a terrifying bid for freedom, revealing that as they made their way from the top of the tower, ten of her neighbours retreated back upstairs scared and unable to plough on.

    Residents scream for their lives as the Grenfell Tower fire rages
    Residents scream for their lives as the Grenfell Tower fire rages Credit: Evening Standard / eyevine

    Those who made the fateful decision to return to their apartments have not been seen since.

    Among them, she thinks may have been three-year-old Amaya Ahmadi and her mother Amal, 35, whom she saw coming out of their 19th floor flat and were initially behind them on the stairs.

    Amal, who was born in Eritrea, was with Amaya’s father, Mohamud Tukuh, who also remains missing.

    Ms Mekonnen, 36, and her children, Yohana and Liya Yohannes, 4, would most likely be dead if she had not received a phone call from her aunt, Hiwot Dagnachew, on the fifth floor, who warned her about the fire.

    “We were fast asleep and my phone rang – I’m so lucky it wasn’t on silent,” Ms Mekonnen told The Telegraph.
    “My aunt was trying to be calm but she was clearly panicking.

    “She said there were flames outside her window and that we should get out.

    “I put on my dressing gown, grabbed my little ones and ran out into the corridor.”

    With Liya under one arm and holding Yahana’s hand in a rock-like grip, Ms Mekonnen descended down the stairs.

    “It was hard to breath – we were coughing and the kids were screaming,” she said.
    “I was trying to keep them calm but in complete shock myself.

    “People were getting really, really scared and started running back up the stairs.

    “I was tempted to go back but, but I just couldn’t see myself being locked in the flat on the 19th floor with that fire, so I carried on. The girls were so heavy.”

    The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower blaze
    The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower blaze Credit: Julian Simmonds

    The family eventually fought their way to the ground floor and were about to throw open the emergency fire exit when a firefighter screamed at them to stop because the whole of the side of the building above was on fire.

    “If he hadn’t –“  Ms Mekonnen was overcome with emotion and could not finish the sentence.
    “I can’t believe we are alive,” she said.

    Ms Mekonnen’s partner, Mr Tefaye, a biolmedical scientist, heard the news as he worked a night shift at the nearby Chelsea and Westminster hospital. After a panicked dash to the scene, he was eventually reunited with his family in the early hours of the morning.

    “The little one said ‘Baba, why are they burning my house?” he said.

    Three days on from the deadly inferno, 30 people have been confirmed dead but some 70 remain missing.

    Their bodies remain untouched in the blackened tower, whilst directly below, exhausted loved ones gradually began to accept that they are gone.

    Among the victims are entire families, parents who died alongside their young children, a grandmother and her son, mothers and daughters, together to the end.

    A 12-year-old boy who remains missing with his mother was described as an “academic star” by his science teacher.

    Biruk Haftom and his mother, Brkite Haftom, 29, lived on the 18th floor and helped missing 12-year-old Jessica Urbano by lending her a phone to call her mother, who was out working a night shift.

    “Mum where are you? Mummy come and get me,” she implored, before the line went dead.

    A message posted on Facebook appealed for information about the trio, said: “Briket kindly let Jessie (Urbano) call her mum Adriana Ramirez whilst they tried to get down the stairs at 1.29am & then again at 1.39am. We believe they were all together whilst trying to evacuate Grenfell.”

    Ms Haftom’s sister Selam said: “I don’t know what to think any more, what can I think?”

    Biruk’s teacher Mengs Berhane told the Evening Standard: “This boy is an academic star, really going places. I teach him science he is wonderful. I am doing all I can to find news, this is a tragedy.”

    Mohammed Hakim has described how he lost his entire family, who lived on the 17th floor.

    His parents Komru Miahm 82, and Razia Begum, 65, brothers Abdul Hamid, 26, and Abdul Hanif, 29 and sister Husna Begum, 22, who was due to get married next month, are still missing.

    "I spoke to her and she said please forgive me if I've said anything to upset or hurt you. I don't think we're going to make it out of the building," he told the BBC.

    "Not losing one member of my family but the whole entire five. I don't have my parents any more and you only get one set of parents in this world.

    "I had three siblings and they're all gone, in the space of a couple of hours."

    Nura Jamal, her husband Hashim Kedir and their children Yahya, 13, Firdaws, 11, and Yaqub, six, also remain missing.

    Floral tributes, one bearing a message from the London Fire Brigade are placed near The Grenfell Tower 
    Floral tributes, one bearing a message from the London Fire Brigade are placed near The Grenfell Tower  Credit: REUTERS

    Terrified Mrs Jamal rang a friend and told her: "Forgive me, the fire is here. I'm dying. We are going, pray for us."

    Among others who remain missing are six-month- old Leena and her parents, Farah and Omah Hamdan, whose two older daughters escaped.

    Grandmother Marjorie Vital and her son Ernie Vital, who had lived on the 16th floor for more than 20 years, have not been seen since the fire broke out.

    One victim who is confirmed to have died is Khadija Khalloufi, 52, whose hand slipped from her husband's grasp in the smoky stairwell.

    Her husband, Sabah Abdullah, 72, a retired lecturer, described his devastation after police told him her body had been found on the grass just 50ft from where he was waiting for her.

    “We had a 30-year marriage,” he said. “She was my other half, she was my partner. She was everything. I feel lost. I don't know what's going on. I just want my wife back.”

    Artist Khadija Saye, 24, whose work is currently on show at the Venice Biennale, and who was in her flat on the 20th floor with her mother Mary Mendy, is also said to have died.

    Tottenham MP David Lammy, a family friend, said: "She's died with her mother on the 22nd floor of the building. And it breaks my heart that that's happening in Britain in 2017. Breaks my heart."

    Khadija Saye, who has been named as a victim of the Grenfell Tower fire
    Khadija Saye, who has been named as a victim of the Grenfell Tower fire Credit: PA

    Six members, and three generations, of the Choucair family are also feared to have died.

    Three sisters Fatima, Zaynab and Mierna Choucair, aged three, ten and 13, qwew in their flat on the 22nd floor, along with their parents Nadia, 29, and Bassem, 38, and Nadia’s elderly mother Sirra, from Lebanon.

    Hisam Choucair said he believed a widely published picture of a woman desperately waving a makeshift flag from her window as fire raged directly behind her was his sister Nadia, standing alongside her husband.

    He has demanded that fire evacuation policies for high rise buildings are reformed and that cladding is removed from similar blocks.


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