Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Grenfell Tower which caught fire in the early hours of June 14, 2017. Sixty hours later and the blaze was completely extinguished. However, in that time numerous lives were lost, including a baby that would later be still born.
Many claim that we will never know the official fatality count. A national minute of silence was held on June 19 at 11 in memory of those lost in the fire.
Ever since that horrific night, fingers have been pointing and names have been named in a desperate attempt to cast the blame on a single person or corporate body.
Several investigations have been launched. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea pledged to carry out a full-scale investigation, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a public inquiry, and Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy announced a criminal investigation.
Grenfell Action Group were raising concerns years before the fire broke out, citing ‘building maintenance failures and the lack of adequate escape routes’. Regardless, their pleas were met with corporate loopholes, obstacles and red tape.
‘ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time’.
The London-wide Radical Housing Network, a parent company of the Grenfell Action Group, described the fire as ‘a horrific, preventable tragedy’ that was the result of a ‘combination of government cuts, local authority mismanagement, and sheer contempt for council tenants and the homes they live in’.
David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham was among the many voices accusing the local council of systematic neglect, underinvestment and deregulation.
Speaking on BBC’s Today programme, the day after the blaze, he pointed out the borough had a huge rich-poor gap — one of the largest in the world.
‘This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way and we should call it what it is. It is corporate manslaughter. That’s what it is. And there should be arrests made, frankly. It is an outrage.
‘We built buildings in the 70s. Those 70s buildings, many of them should be demolished. They have not got easy fire escapes. They have got no sprinklers. It is totally, totally unacceptable in Britain that this is allowed to happen and that people lose their lives in this way. People should be held to account’.
Accusations also flew towards the London Fire Brigade and their response to the incident. More than 200 firefighters and 40 trucks attended the scene over the 60-hour period.
BBC’s Newsnight received a number of anonymous accounts from firefighters who were at the scene that night.
One firefighter said:
‘The fire floors we went in were helmet-meltingly hot … when we were clearing flats, it was a case of a quick look and closing doors because the water pressure wasn’t up to firefighting’.
The LFB have said the police investigation will be exploring all aspects of the tragedy, ‘including all of the issues Newsnight has raised’.
Families of the victims are now preparing to sue the London Fire Brigade for a cost of £1 million.
Disturbingly, almost a year later no one has given a formal admission of fault or issued an official apology.
The 24-floor block still stands in North Kensington, a looming burnout shell serving as a reminder of the cost of austerity measures and under-enforced technical safety regulations.
Numerous local councils and authorities rushed to review cladding used in their own tower blocks after it was found to be the cause of the speed and brutality of the blaze.
A number of residents living close to the tower have also been rehoused to temporary accommodation following safety concerns about the fire and subsequent falling debris.
In the immediate aftermath, members of the local community sprang into action. Young people especially were applauded when donations of food, clothing and bedding came rushing into surrounding churches, mosques and community centres.
Simon Cowell came forward to produce a single featuring artists from across the music industry. The track titled ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ had one of the highest opening day sales of this decade.
Theresa May pledged a £5 million pay-out to victims of the fire, and donations flooded in from numerous local and national charities. Despite this, in January the BBC reported that only £20.9 million of the nearly £26.5 million had been properly distributed.
Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the company that was in charge of managing just under 10,000 properties for the council, has folded under criticism and debate, their services and responsibilities were absorbed by Kensington and Chelsea council.
The conservative-run assembly has since been regarded with anger and frustration. However, they managed to cling onto their seat in the borough following local elections on Thursday May 3.
London rapper Stormzy recived a harsh response from number 10 on behalf of the Prime Minister. He performed a ‘politically charged’ freestyle rap at the 2018 Brit awards.
He asked: ‘Yo, Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell at?’
In early May, a man and woman both 51 were charged with fraud for false representation relating to compensation claims after the fire.
Now a plastic tarp covers the smoky husk of Grenfell Tower in a subtle attempt to protect any forensic evidence.
Plans for the building to eventually be demolished will be enacted towards the end of this year.
The surrounding community are to be consulted on what will take its place.
It goes without saying: nothing will come close to filling the emotional, mental and physical cost of this catastrophe.