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Volunteers travel from outside London to help at Grenfell

SUPPORT: Donations being collected and sorted by volunteers near Grenfell Towers

THE CARIBBEAN community are amongst the throngs of volunteers who have descended upon Notting Hill, west London to provide relief to those affected by the Grenfell tower block fire, which has killed 30 residents so far, according to a Met statement this morning.

During and following the fire in Grenfell Tower, members of the Caribbean community provided medical assistance, emotional support, food, clothing and shelter to the injured, homeless and those hoping to be reunited with loved ones at relief centres.

Volunteers travelled to the area which is in the heart of the Notting Hill, where the annual Caribbean carnival takes place in August, not only from different parts of London, but areas such as Luton and Coventry, hundreds of miles away.

Saphia Joseph, 25, whose parents are from Grenada was notified of the incident at 1:00am on Wednesday, shortly after the fire started. Once she arrived at the scene, the third-year nursing student offered assistance to the paramedics, who were overwhelmed by the scale of the causalities brought into a local public house to receive treatment. She told The Gleaner:

Caesar, from the Edwards Woods Estate carries box of supplies

"I was giving oxygen to those who fainted because of smoke inhalation, under the supervision of doctors and reassuring patients.

“There were two mothers who told me that their children were still in the building and I tried to comfort them.”

She continued:

“I have had work experience placements in accident and emergency wards in hospitals, but this was on a different level. To witness parents and their children jumping out of windows from your own community really hurts.”

As the disaster unfolded many residents expressed anger at the seeming failure to tackle the fire, which quickly escalated from the fourth to the 24th floor; trapping entire families.

At approximately 2:00 am frustrated locals attempted to break through the police cordon, causing police officers to close ranks with riot shields.

As the enormity of the fire and loss of life became apparent during the daylight; community centres, churches and schools quickly became hubs of activities for volunteers.

Food, toys, nappies, and clothing have been packed in boxes and distributed by vans to storage areas for distribution to those in need.

Rachel Plumber (left) with friend at one of the community centres

18-year-old Rachael Plumber, whose parents are from St. Catherine in Jamaica was helping to pack items at the Edwards Woods Community Centre in west London. She explained to The Gleaner why she was moved to help.

She said:

"I felt compelled to aid the community. Although I don’t live locally I have family who live in the area and who have been affected by the tragedy.”

Carine James, from St Catherine, also helped pack clothes and various foodstuffs in boxes for distribution. The Jamaican couldn’t contain her tears as she explained why she was moved to help. She said:

“I live in the area and have friends who live in the Grenfell Towers. Unfortunately, one of my son’s friends is still missing.”

Ben Lewis, whose mother Joyce Lewis is from Dominica narrowly escaped with her life on the third floor. He believes the cladding surrounding the building contributed to the rapid spread of the fire. He said:

“Although I’m relieved my mum escaped, I believe the council has a lot to answer for. In my opinion, the cladding contributed to fireball.”

A number of fires in France, Australia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the US are said to have been caused by cladding, causing considerable destruction.

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