Another tragedy struck London on the 14th June. As residents slept, the Grenfell Tower in North Kensington was set alight by an unknown cause at the time. The blaze spread upwards and caused a multitude of casualties and even to this day, on the 19th June, an unknown number of fatalities.
The fire quickly became a controversial tragedy, as angry residents claimed that the issue lay with the lack of health and safety measures taken on the building. A BBC interview with a particular anonymous resident has now gone viral as individuals all over the capital empathised with the young man’s frustrations, “to be honest, I’m not totally sure it was an accident”. He pointed out that the plastic coverings on the Grenfell Tower were the extent of the recent “refurbishment” on the tower block and neighbouring blocks in the area. Which in the most darkly ironic way, would have made the fire spread faster across the high rise.
These views were also echoed by UK rapper and urban political figure, Akala, who also commented on the government’s part played in the cause of the fire. “Yes, but it was an eyesore for the rich people that live opposite. So they put panels, pretty panels, on the outside so the rich people opposite wouldn’t have to look at a horrendous block.” In the interview with Jon Snow, Akala goes on to candidly point out, “The people who died and lost their homes, this happened to them because they are poor.”
The blaze continued to burn through early hours of the morning, one firefighter described the scene as being like a “war zone” and remembers hearing children screaming for help. Amongst all the difficulties in accessing the building, firefighters did what they could to help the many people still trapped inside. There has since been many traumatising firefighter and witness accounts of what happened on the 14th June and it is all very hard to hear.
In the days following the fire, both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn visited the scene of disaster, which you can see from the two pictures below. Again, May has been accused of being insensitive and cowardly. The two images are incomparable in terms of humanity and compassion. Which sparks the question: did we choose the wrong leader in the recent election? According to the Telegraph, one of the locals reportedly told the Labour leader, who was praised for his empathy that “Theresa May was here but she didn’t speak to any of us.”
Dany Cotton, the capital’s fire commissioner reported to the Evening Standard that the death toll is still unknown with certainty and it is thought to be weeks before we know a firm number of losses from the incident. “Tragically we are not expecting to find anyone else alive.” She added.
The day after her initial visit to Grenfell tower, May visited Kensington and Chelsea hospital where victims were being treated. Even this attempt to claw back the nations respect was an act of spinelessness as waves of frustrated crowds began to approach; May fled the scene, rather than addressing the people in which she governs.
The future for the residents of Grenfell Tower is up in the air. The government has offered £5 million in compensation for those lucky enough to have survived. To those of you thinking this figure is enough, I pose this question to you: if you lost your belongings, your home, your family and finally, your livelihood and the whole ordeal could have been avoided with the government spending on adequate health and safety measures, would this amount be enough for you?
The only redeeming aspect that came from the last few gut wrenching days that have taken place this week is the overwhelming response and donations from neighbouring communities. Like the London bridge attack, the city came together to show the true solidarity of London spirit.
Thanks to the brave locals voicing their anger with budget cuts, inadequate housing and May’s leadership, the opportunity for change could be taken. There are a lot of aspects to consider when discussing this disaster, however now, the focus should be on lifting the community and honouring the fallen.
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