Worshippers leaving night prayers at Lower Clapton mosque risk lives to rescue hundreds of people from tower block fire
PUBLISHED: 17:27 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 20:03 07 June 2019
Worshippers leaving night prayers in Lower Clapton last night risked their lives by running to the top floor of a burning building to rescue hundreds of people.
Members of Madina Mosque, near the Lea Bridge roundabout, spotted a fire on the eighth floor of Gooch House in Kenninghall Road at about 2.40am and after breaking in began banging on all the doors - starting with flats on the 18th floor.
Thanks to their efforts, by the time 25 firefighters got there everyone had escaped.
Mosque chair Mohammed Sidat said he was extremely proud and that it showed a side of Islam people didn't always get to hear about.
People in the block also heaped praise on them for their bravery.
"They banged on our doors shouting: 'Fire, fire, get out,'" said one man, Ahmed, who has lived on the seventh floor for 15 years. "We were obviously a bit confused but I could smell it and hear the alarm going off in the upstairs flat.
"They helped my mum downstairs while I took my wife and checked on an elderly resident on the first floor who is recovering from cancer.
"They made sure everyone got out. They knocked on each door until someone opened. There was six or seven of them and they were only young. If it wasn't for them we would never have got out.
"They are fasting but spent an hour running up and down 18 floors. They broke their way in not knowing what was inside. It could have been a lot worse - they risked their lives.
"It was a really important show of community spirit. It shows there are still people willing to help others and risk their own life."
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The blaze, caused by a discarded cigarette, was brought under control within an hour. One man from the affected flat was treated for smoke inhalation, but there were no serious injuries.
"Everyone was shaken up in light of Grenfell," Ahmed continued. "There were people crying. I was watching people run down stairs with kids in both arms."
Mohammed added: "I'm very proud of my guys and I gave them a big hug this morning. I'm going to prepare a big dinner for them after Ramadan.
"They said: 'Mohammed, we just wanted to help our community and local people. We could not bear to think if anything were to happen.'
"They were very brave and ran right to the top floor. They didn't think for their safety and were very courageous.
"They did amazing and it's because of Islam. This is the Islam people don't read about. You sacrifice yourself for your neighbour."
Mavis Holsworth, the elderly former chair of the Clapton Neighbourhood Panel Tenants and Residents Association who Ahmed helped down from the first floor, has written a letter of thanks to the mosque.
"On behalf of the tenants of Gooch House," it reads, "I would like to thank the young men of your congregation for alerting us of the fire that broke out on the eighth floor of the building.
"Without thinking of danger to themselves, they went from top to bottom waking people.
"Our thanks and blessings are with them all."
Lea Bridge's Cllr Ian Rathbone was alerted to the fire in the early hours. He said: "I want to congratulate those mosque users who bravely went and tackled the situation.
"They have demonstrated what it really means to be a good neighbour and think first about the lives and survival of others in those precious minutes of the start of a fire."