In the early hours of June 14, 2017, an inferno spread through the 23 levels of Grenfell Tower in South Kensington, West London. The fire left 72 people dead and over 100 injured. But in the past year, what has been done in the fight for justice and has anyone taken responsibility?
Emergency services received the first call after a fire started on a level 4 flat due to a faulty fridge-freezer. The fire quickly spread throughout the tower block, leaving many residents trapped.
On the night, many residents of the tower were told to stick to the stay put policy by the London Fire Brigade. They were encouraged to remain inside their flats unless the blaze was in their property. The way the tower was made to be build was to make sure that a fire would not spread. 24 victims died on the top tier of Grenfell Tower with reports that many people travelled up the building in hope that help would come from a helicopter.
It took 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines to finally contain the blaze 24 hours later. 72 people lost their lives including a still-born baby.
Centres were set up quickly following the tragic events with residents from the surrounding neighborhoods of Grenfell to people across the country donating what they could do the victims of the fire who were now left with no belongings with many escaping in only their bed-clothes.
However, with residents of London seeming doing more to support than the local council and central government, the authorities received huge criticism. Prime Minister Theresa May received backlash after her reaction to the fire and Kensington and Chelsea Council’s chief executive, Nicholas Holgate and Council Leader, Nick Paget-Brown resigned over the criticism of their handing on the tragedy.
The Chief Executive of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which managed the tower, stepped down to concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry only to quit six months later.
Preliminary tests by the police have concluded that flammable cladding to the exterior of the building contributed to the rapid spread. Both the cladding and installation failed to pass the tests.
This followed an £8.6 million refurbishment completed in May 2016 with the Grenfell Action Group also revealing their concerns for the tower. They shared that the block was a fire risk and warned that emergency vehicles struggled to access the site.
A public inquiry into the tragedy is currently underway and was formally opened on September 14, 2017 which will look at the adequacy of regulations, the tower’s refurbishment and the response of authorities in the aftermath.
It was also revealed in a survey within the aftermath of the fire that 228 other buildings across the country failed cladding safety tests. In May 2018, the government announced a £400m operation to remove dangerous cladding from tower blocks. But is it little too late?
Local residents have been coming together every month since the tragedy on the 14th. They march silently towards the tower for the 72 lives lost, desperate for answers on just why so many lives were lost and precautions were not made. When will justice finally be given?
Photo: Loz Pycock