For anyone who hasn’t seen the headlines, just after midnight on Wednesday 14 June a 24-storey tower block in North Kensington went up in flames. The BBC have a live update as the events unfold but I just wanted to share my initial response. Events, investigations and news stories are unfolding as I type but this was my first reaction to the whole disaster.
Over 200 firefighters rushed to the scene, spending the next twenty-four hours trying to get it under control. They were incredibly responsive, diligent and brave; they are a testament to our emergency services. The death toll is thirty so far (but it’s still uncertain) and 74 people were treated in various hospitals in the hours after the fire started.
The reason for the fire? It’s unknown where the fire started exactly so of course everything that’s been reported thus far is just speculation.
Grenfell Tower had up to 600 residents, of which many had flagged concerns about the risks of the building. They were completely disregarded and ignored. Some of their complaints were about basic healthy and safety violations, such as how there was only one narrow staircase to serve as their escape route. Is it a coincidence that the people who lived there were predominantly working-class?
The first victim to be named was Mohammed Alhajali, a Syrian refugee, and this morning I woke up to a BBC News notification that announced the view that many of the people who have died won’t be able to be identified. My heart dropped when I read that. They had been overlooked as individuals before the fire, and now they don’t even have their names to differentiate between them a death toll statistic.
A stone’s throw away are the streets of Chelsea. I don’t imagine the council cut any corners during the construction of their buildings, but perhaps I’m just cynical about the value placed upon certain neighbourhoods.
Obviously there are huge discussions to be had about funding, class and who’s life is worth more which I feel are too overwhelming to tackle in one post.
What hit me hardest was the image that has been plastered across our TVs, phones and newspapers over the past few days. A tall column of smoke, a building engulfed in uncontrollable flames.
My initial thoughts couldn’t help but liken it to the same iconic imagery from 9/11.
Except this time, it’s not an outsider trying to attack a country or a way of life. No one was making a religious or political statement on Wednesday. Instead, it was the people who are supposed to be looking out for us who put those residents in danger, in their own homes. They weren’t individuals that had been targeted, but victims of neglect.
What do you think about the fire in London?