The fire at the 18-floor New Providence Wharf brought home just how far there is to go to deal with the fire safety crisis, especially for resident Nadim Ahmad.
When fire broke out on floor eight of the Poplar building shortly before 9am on May 7 this year, Nadim and many other residents were unaware. He was alerted only when his partner and three children saw flames while leaving for the school run.
The controversial ‘stay put’ advice in place during Grenfell has now been axed in favour of simultaneous evacuation, so Nadim headed from his level-14 home to the stairwell – the only emergency route out of the building. It was there that the full force of the building’s fire safety defects hit him.
“We’ve been well informed that the stairwell was the safe passage out of the building,” says the 43-year-old chief financial officer. “But when I pushed open the door, I was knocked backwards by up to two metres by what you could only describe as some kind of a backdraft and that’s when all this black smoke engulfed the level. That was quite a startling experience.
“I then ran back to the apartment and I called my wife back and at this point, she was driving in the car. That was when my car connected to the speakerphone and my children heard me say: ‘I can’t get out of the building’. My children were obviously screaming ‘Daddy! Daddy!’, they were quite upset.”
Nadim was left with no option but to race through the stairwell to the exit, joining a neighbour to put on a flimsy mask and make his way through the smoke.