Grenfell Tower: Five years on, justice and accountability sought over deadly blaze

In this Wednesday, June 14, 2017 file photo, smoke and flames rise from the Grenfell Tower building on fire in London.
In this Wednesday, June 14, 2017 file photo, smoke and flames rise from the Grenfell Tower building on fire in London. Copyright Credit: AP Photo
Copyright Credit: AP Photo
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The devastating fire on 14 June 2017 claimed the lives of 72 people.


Survivors and victims' families will today mark five years since a devastating fire at a London tower block left 72 people dead. 

The blaze at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 began in a faulty freezer, quickly engulfing the building through its external cladding. 

Five years, four housing ministers and a lengthy and costly public inquiry later, three families are still awaiting a permanent rehousing solution, while security changes struggle to be implemented.

According to figures from The Times newspaper, 640,000 Britons still live in buildings covered with cladding of the same type as Grenfell Tower.

A painful reminder

To mark the anniversary, Grenfell United, the charity for the victims of the fire, is organising a multi-faith service in memory of the victims on Tuesday, as well as a march at the base of the tower in London's North Kensington where green hearts – which have become the symbol of Grenfell – are being displayed in the streets.

Tiago Alves, 25, will come to meditate. He, his parents and his sister escaped death in 2017 and want to continue to "speak up to make sure something like this never happens again."

"The only way to bring justice [to the victims] is to continue our fight, to continue our campaign and to continue to be the best versions of ourselves for there to be change – whether through justice, through the public inquiry or by legislative changes," he said, quoted by the PA news agency.

Alves now fears that what was the worst residential fire since the Second World War in the UK will be followed by other even more deadly tragedies.

Still no accountability

The government confirmed last month that it was still advising residents of a burning building to wait for help before evacuating, going against the recommendations of the public inquiry and angering survivors of the fire.

The authorities "do not learn from their mistakes", said Alves. "Why do we have to fight so hard for this?"

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, the survivors and the community of Grenfell. But half a decade later, we should be able to offer more than thoughts and prayers. We should be able to provide the answers, the justice and the changes to which the residents of Grenfell are entitled," London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote in an op-ed published in The Guardian on Sunday.

He added: "Progress has been made. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is painstakingly unearthing the truth – revealing how profits were prioritised over people’s safety, how privatisation and deregulation weakened our country’s approach to building standards, and how institutional disdain towards those in social housing had such fatal consequences. 

"But no one has yet been held truly accountable for the combustible cladding that turned Grenfell into a death trap," he added. "That means justice is far from being done, while at the same time the far-reaching change that is so urgently needed to avoid a similar disaster is not happening fast enough."

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