A modern calamity in which 72 lives and possibly many more undocumented ones were taken. The dreadful tragedy, inconceivable by many to have even occurred, caused nationwide horror and mourning in the United Kingdom. Now an inquiry has been released describing the events of the night in excruciating detail.
A lengthy inquiry has been launched following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in which a London block of apartments caught ablaze on the night of June 14, 2017. The first phase of the report examined what happened on the night about the police, fire and ambulance services, the deceased and the spread of the fire.
Several factors became immediately apparent in the causation of the fire – such as the building’s flammable cladding and budget cuts to the London fire service – leading to the downfall of the tower and loss of life to its tenants. The long-awaited phase one report of the public inquiry was divided into two phases by its chair, Martin Moore-Bick.
The fire began on the fourth floor of the tower as a result of faulty electrical lines leading to the combustion of a fridge-freezer. Rapidly, the fire blazed upwards engulfing the top floor within half an hour of the fire brigade being called. With the blaze starting just before 1 am, around four and a half hours after, the entire building was ablaze leaving 72 dead. The last known survivor exited the building at 8 am. Some tenants of Grenfell Tower attempted to move floors to escape the fire but soon, the top floors were heavily lit.
Published last week, the first part of the report investigated the catastrophic events of the night of the fire. Whilst the second part, which may not be published for another two years or so, is set to scrutinise the causes of the tragedy. To consider the events first appears most rational to a nation intent on determining what occurred during the fire, and secondly as per the second phase of the report, what caused the fire to prevent any such disasters from occurring again.
The London fire service bore a large amount of scrutiny and criticism from phase one of the inquiry. Within the Chairman’s statement, he notes that those liable to respond to the incident were “not trained to recognise a fire in the external wall of a high-rise building [or] how to respond to it,” he added that the London Fire Brigade “failed to revoke the ‘stay-put’ advice at a time where the stairs remained passable,” noting that had they done so, more lives could have been saved.
Moore-Bick added that there was a lack of great communication and appropriate training representing significant failings amongst the LFB. Pointedly, the cladding was also mentioned as it is known to have promoted the fire- in this instance, the report recommended that the sharing of building materials be conducted to avoid such combustible materials being put in place again. It became clear in the report that the tower did not comply with building regulations.
Further recommendations were made for the input of fire safety measures and regulations amongst inhabitants and police, fire and ambulance services. The detailed report distressingly shares the events of the night and the wrongdoings of the fire brigade. Many of the criticisms came down to insufficient training and ill-preparation for a fire this strong. However, Moore-Bick praises the courage of the firefighters who risked their lives to save people from the burning building. Dany Cotton, head of the LFB argued against the report, stating: “I would not change anything we did on the night.”
Since publication, the response to the inquiry has been rather strong with several survivors suggesting Cotton should be fired. The report also absolves Behailu Kebede – the tenant in which whose room the fire began and who first alerted nearby residents and the authorities – of starting the fire after he faced great harassment by tabloids and members of the public.
Following the fire, hundreds were left homeless and hurt whilst a once lively community grieved and mourned the deaths of loved ones. Since the tragedy, there were nationwide calling for the victims to be rehoused which took a considerable amount of time. A recent report stated that out of the 202 tenants, 178 had been permanently rehoused whilst the remainder live in temporary residences. So far, the first phase of the report has brought agreement for the removal of the cladding, new fire safety measures and a pursuit of criminal investigations that will continue in the second report.
However, it may be another two years or so before the second report is released, and which will detail the construction of the tower in detail and more so the causation of the events that took place. What is important now for survivors and members of the public is that the recommendations are implemented accordingly.
The inquiry has been significant in exposing the events of the night. For Grenfell United, “there is still a long road ahead for justice and change. For the 72 people that we lost, who are forever in our hearts, we will not stop until change comes.”
There understandably needs to be justice served. Two years later and it is important that lessons are being learned. It is not only necessary to point blame on organisations or materials but to put steps in place to avoid such a great tragedy from repeating itself.
In similar news, Jeremy Corbyn was mocked in the House of Commons by Conservative MP’s for wearing a green tie to honour the victims of the fire whilst survivors and families of the incident looked on. Corbyn was addressing the official inquiry while Tory MP’s in the stands jeered garnering great criticism for an apparent disrespect and lack of awareness to the situation.
Also, Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg faced a barrage of criticism on Tuesday, November 5, after a radio interview in which he stated that Grenfell Tower victims could have ignored instructions from the fire brigade and used “common sense” to exit the burning building, saving more lives.
Jeremy Corbyn and families of the victims objected his remarks calling for an apology to be made. Corbyn also called Rees-Mogg “crass and insensitive”. Al Jazeera reported that Rees-Mogg “profoundly apologised” later adding that “I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments. With hindsight and after reading the report no one would follow that advice. That’s the great tragedy.”