A same-sex couple lost all of their possessions in the London tower block fire but they didn’t lose their lives thanks to a twist of fate.
At least 17 people died in the inferno that engulfed Grenfell Tower, in north Kensington, but police warn that figure could rise further.
More than 30 people remain in hospital – 17 of whom are in a critical condition.
But two lucky escapees are Jules Ng, 30, and Lee Stewart, 29, who rented a flat together in the tower.
Speaking to Gay Star News, Jules said: ‘I was away because I was at work in Crawley, staying in a hotel, doing a four-day activity. And on Tuesday night, my boyfriend came to the hotel because it was his birthday yesterday – the day of the fire.
‘Thank God he did.
‘We got here at Tuesday night. And at 3am on the night of the fire, we got a missed call from the landlord.
‘The vibrations woke us up, and my boyfriend called back to ask what was going on. That’s how we found out what happened.
‘I went to check online, and we saw the videos and articles. We saw our building burning down. It was horrific.’
The management consultant and IT developer couldn’t believe the image at first.
‘I just thought, “Oh my god. Is it happening? Am I seeing this right? We’re here, but think of the people inside! It’s the middle of the night, people are trapped? Our possessions, our home – seeing it burning down was horrifying.
‘We just hoped the fire would be put out in time so people would be OK.’
The couple are checking out of their hotel today, and they’ve been inundated with offers of places to stay from friends and family. Jules’ director of operations and head of HR called him to check on him, and are paying for the couple to stay in a hotel for the next few days.
But it doesn’t change what they’ve lost.
‘For me, it’s all the stuff on my laptop. I haven’t backed anything up, photos and files and documents. Both of us – I’ve got gifts from my 18th and 21st birthday that are probably lost. They were watches from my family, really beautiful watches. I barely wore them because I loved them. My boyfriend lost his LP records. He’s a big Michael Jackson fan, and he’s got lots of memorabilia. We’ve both lost personal laptops, and all of our clothes.’
This is how you can help the fire victims
A friend of the couple, Kwok Law, set up a JustGiving page to help them replace clothes, furniture and other possessions they lost in the fire.
‘We’re stunned. It’s not just from friends and family, it’s strangers who we’ve never met. It just gives a positive spin on the entire thing.’
The couple say while they are very thankful for any contributions, they would like people to support people who are less financially stable than them.
The Kensington and Chelsea Foundation are raising funds, and you can also donate clothing, bedding, toiletries to help points around the local area.