London Grenfell Tower disaster still hurts

This video says about itself:

14 December 2017

It has been six months since the Grenfell Tower burnt out, killing 71 people. What has been done since then?


London Grenfell Tower disaster, new film reviewed

This video about London, England says about itself:

Failed By The State: The Struggle in the Shadow of Grenfell (Part 1)

16 November 2017

redfish presents its debut: An exclusive grassroots report into how austerity and gentrification caused the Grenfell tragedy, one of the deadliest fires in recent UK history.

This video about London, England says about itself:

Failed By The State: The Struggle in the Shadow of Grenfell (Part 2)

23 November 2017

This second episode of our 3 part grassroots report on London’s deadliest fire in recent history looks at how the victims responded to repeated state failings during and after the fire. Featuring former Grenfell resident Ish, survivors of the fire, musicians Lily Allen and Lowkey.

This video about London, England says about itself:

Failed By The State: The Struggle in the Shadow of Grenfell (Part 3)

redfish’s final installment of its exclusive grassroots report into the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London finds a community building from the ashes of the tragedy to defend itself from the dangers of neoliberal greed and excess.

By Paul Bond in England:

Film Review

“Grenfell changed everything”—Failed by the State: The Struggle in the Shadow of Grenfell

14 December 2017

The Grenfell Tower fire exposed the realities of class oppression and social inequality in the most brutal way. For many, it has forced a growing recognition that the roots of that inequality are to be found in the capitalist system.

A new, short, three-part documentary, Failed by the State: The Struggle in the Shadow of Grenfell, shows that growing realisation. It deserves to be watched and shared widely.

The film presents many strong and principled statements from residents and local workers, as well as comments from the council and various political figures. Its essential strength is in its attempt to understand the social murder at Grenfell Tower in terms of the devastation being wrought by global capitalism.

The film includes a clip of Prime Minister Theresa May, as part of a damage-limitation exercise, describing what took place at Grenfell as a “failure of the state.” The reasons for this failure, rooted in the enormous growth of social inequality, are detailed by the film.

Failed by the State was co-written for Redfish, a Berlin-based independent journalists’ organisation, by Daniel Renwick and presenter Ish.

Ish was born in Grenfell Tower and lived there for 25 years. As he narrates in the film’s opening scenes, he couldn’t sleep after seeing “the heart of my estate burn … That night will follow me and my peoples for the rest of our lives.”

The most powerful aspect of Failed by the State is that it demonstrates how consciousness has been radically altered in the space of weeks and months.

Former Grenfell resident Ish

“Grenfell changed everything,” says Ish. “We talk politics now and how we can take power. Because we learnt that we have to look after ourselves.”

“The reality for us? The battles won’t stop,” he continues.

The film is marked by a genuine search for answers as to the wider causes of the Grenfell Tower fire. Pointing to the fact that eight individuals own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, the film notes, “Our local fight is against global enemies and structures.”

Musician Lowkey movingly describes the victims as “vindicated in death,” but still not heard.

The film refuses to use footage of the fire because “we never want to see that again.” The pre-credit sequence to Part 1 opens with the crucial role played in the fire by the use of flammable cladding on the tower. It notes the proposed restrictions on the use of such cladding and also the paltry amount a fire-retardant replacement would have cost the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC): “Instead they opted for needless austerity and it killed.”

This is the starting point for the filmmakers’ reflections, not their conclusion. Grenfell burned “for local and global reasons. There’s a bigger picture that I learn more about each day,” Ish says.

“Global capital has no regard for people like me”. This is the “same the world over from Berlin to Rio, Madrid to New York.”

Another local resident, Naf, explains, “I’m working class. I’ve never felt such a difference between—when I say us and them, I’m talking class. I don’t mean racial.”

The comments are striking and point to how the Grenfell tragedy has brought the issues of class division to the fore.

Some interviews are more revealing than others. The net is cast wide and includes not only local Labour MP Emma Dent Coad, but also Ian Bone, a political dilettante and founder of the anarchist group, Class War, who now seems to be advocating a type of municipal socialism for North Kensington.

Dent Coad was elected at the 2017 snap election in a previously solid Tory seat, as part of a general shift to the left within the working class. She speaks of the anger of many of her constituents at growing social inequality, and of the “managed decline” of social housing as a product of “warfare against people with low incomes.”

She cannot honestly address how Labour councils are as complicit as the Tories in social cleansing, as demonstrated in the London borough of Haringey, where Labour is pushing through a £2 billion privatisation programme involving the demolition of seven council estates.

Ish states, “Many of us now see a warfare by the rich in collusion with their mates in local government.” Of the role of RBKC, he declares, “They didn’t represent us, they lied, they cut, they deregulated and it killed.”

Many of the interviewees discuss the question of gentrification in one of the most socially polarised areas in the country. Deepening inequality is forcing the poorest out of the area, and there is a growing feeling that the continued presence of the poor in social housing is seen as an obstacle to what Lowkey describes as a property “goldmine.”

Ish speaks of the relentless property development projects throughout the city. “The deadly consequences we suffered make the cranes loom on the horizon in different, more threatening ways now.”

The film cites the involvement of local Conservative politicians in various property and redevelopment companies and projects, enriching themselves while the local working class is stripped of all resources.

Ed Daffarn, a Grenfell Tower resident, who was a member of the Grenfell Action Group and long-time critic of RBKC’s erosion of basic safety standards, points to the destruction of local social provisions. The council should have been keeping us safe, he tells Ish, but they were busy plundering assets, including the area’s 125-year-old library building.

The film captures the developing mood that justice cannot and will not be served by the very people whose policies laid the basis for the fire.

Barry Quirk, who stepped in as RBKC Chief Executive after the fire, denies outright that there is any social cleansing at work. Ish’s disdain for the claim is all too clear. Quirk was for many years Chief Executive at Lewisham Council in south London, which is embroiled in gentrification and regeneration scandals.

Ish declares that “the state, the government and local council failed us. In the aftermath of the fire it continued to fail us.” Quirk expresses his “concern,” while claiming he had heard from council staff they had been doing things and “maybe people weren’t aware of them.”

One resident comments that the streets are quieter now, but he is not talking about passivity. He is describing both a recognition of and an attempt to overcome the “divide and rule” tactics employed against young people.

The voices from local residents demonstrate a growing recognition that any response to Grenfell must be directed towards a reorganisation of society in the interests of the working class, rather than the profits of a handful of corporate robbers. “Not just to pick up where the council fails,” as Ish states.

Grenfell Tower memorial: Survivors and victim’s families still struggle to come to terms with fatal tragedy. Daughter of 78-year-old killed in blaze says her mother ‘still cries every day’: here.

What I learned from the Grenfell families about the inquiry this week. One powerful testimony described how the communities were having to teach the authorities how to be ‘human’. By Richard Burgon: here.

Puerto Rico still devastated after Hurricane Maria, report

Devastation on Puerto Rico

By Genevieve Leigh and Zac Corrigan in Puerto Rico:

On-the-spot report

Over a million in Puerto Rico living without the necessities of modern life

“The island has been turned upside down since the storm

14 December 2017

Nearly three months since Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island of Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm, hundreds of thousands of workers and youth continue to live without the basic neccessities of modern life. Over a million of the island’s estimated 3.4 million residents are still without electricity and running water. At least 700 schools remain closed with thousands of students either redirected to other schools or forced to stay home. Many of the rural areas in the center of the island have yet to be reached and many roads still lay in disrepair.

The storm has laid bare the horrific conditions under which the working class in Puerto Rico has been living for decades. Like working people on the mainland of the United States, the island’s residents are subjected to dangerously poor infrastructure, lack of healthcare, unemployment, poverty, cuts to education and social services while the wealth of a handful of billionaires grows at a staggering rate. The situation for the working class in Puerto Rico is magnified by the island’s “commonwealth” status and the legacy of colonial oppression by the US.

A reporting team from the World Socialist Web Site is currently traveling throughout the island to document the ongoing crisis, the lack of aid from the Trump administration and local authorities, and the corporate and government efforts to exploit the desperate situation to accelerate the looting of public assets.

At a volunteer-based free medical clinic in San Sebastian sponsored by Remote Area Medical, WSWS reporters spoke to those seeking medical care. Local residents explained that San Sebastian is reported to be one of the most well recovered parts of the island despite the fact that dozens are still living without electricity or running water. Many businesses remained closed—some permanently—and there is not a single functioning traffic light. In addition to the “boil water” advisory for the entire island, other basic amenities such as Internet are difficult to find. Residents throughout the town can be seen working on their roofs, clearing debris, and repairing their homes. In some of the poorer neighborhoods, one can see dozens of bright blue tarps where roofs used to be.

The water line on the power pole marked 'DAY 1'

Roberto Hernandez, a young person from the neighborhood who was helping at the clinic, told us that life on the island has been turned upside down since the storm. “We have had to adapt to survive. People have no Internet, electricity, or water. You have to adjust yourself to 100 years back. For a lot of people, it’s overwhelming. People really need electricity. People have breathing problems, for example, and need their respirators.

“I’ve been asking myself, how long will it be until life returns to normal, and it’s hard to predict. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) says they might be in Puerto Rico for the next five or ten years.”

Roberto with a young girl who just got a new pair of glasses

Life is far from normal for the working class and poor residents of the island. One of the most striking features of the situation in Puerto Rico is the vast discrepancy between the official corporate and government reports and the reality facing the population.

First, the state recognized death toll remains at “64” despite reports by social scientists in Puerto Rico and mainland universities, along with Vox, the New York Times and other news outlets, which estimate that the death toll from the hurricane is more than 16 times greater. The Times analysis found that in the 42 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, the number of fatalities was 1,052 more than the usual number that die in that timespan across the island.

Other contradictory claims have been made over the state of public schools. The department of education claimed that 98 percent of schools have reopened. However, popular protests have broken out at the Education Department in San Juan and at schools across the island over remaining closures of hundreds of the island’s 1,100 public schools. The teachers union has accused the island’s Education Secretary, Julia Keleher, of deliberately keeping schools closed, despite the fact that teachers and other volunteers have cleared them of debris and prepared buildings to reopen, because she wants to close 184 schools and turn the remaining facilities into for-profit charter operations.

The Electric Power Authority (AEE) is officially reporting that over 65 percent of areas have been “energized” though many residents and local news outlets are skeptical that this figure is accurate. Various local news outlets have speculated that by using the term “energized” (in Spanish “tener energización”) the AEE is able to make deceptive claims portraying the situation as far better than the reality.

Dr. Gloria Lopez from San Juan told the WSWS that the capital city is still one of the most devastated areas. “In San Juan, most of us don’t have water or electricity. I don’t know why on the radio they keep saying 65 to 75 percent of people have water and electricity because we really don’t. There is still uncollected debris right in front of my house”, Dr. Lopez explained that at night one can see the areas with restored electricity and it is largely restricted to more upscale and tourist areas, including Old San Juan.

She continued, “My neighbors and I used to be able to be able to retrieve water from a stream but now it is contaminated. We can’t use our washing machines. They are now selling washboards in a modern country! In the evening, the noise from the generators is like an orchestra and in the morning there’s a haze over the city from the fumes produced by the generators.”

Dr. Gloria Lopez

Even if the “official” figure concerning electricity is taken at face value, the fact that so many are still without power nearly three months since the storm made landfall is unprecedented for a territory of the most “advanced” country in the world.

The power grid in Puerto Rico is notorious for being dilapidated and unstable. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, in an interview in October with Reuters just after the storm, explained that “the emergency plan was as follows: There is no way to fix the nature of the grid.” Authorities say some areas of the island may not have power until March 2018.

While power plants on the mainland are 18 years old on average and many use more efficient natural gas, the average power plant in Puerto Rico is 44 years old and more than half of the island is powered by oil. Adding to the repair and maintenance challenges is the fact that many downed power lines in remote areas are nearly impossible to access. Residents on the island pay somewhere between 80 and 100 percent more for electricity than the rest of the country.

The island’s public power utility PREPA is drowning in $9 billion of debt and filed bankruptcy just a few months before the storm. Since 2012, the workforce at PREPA has been reduced by over 30 percent, eliminating essential linemen, maintenance workers and technicians, and making the grid even more vulnerable to storm damage.

For the ruling class, the devastation caused to the power grid from the Hurricane Maria is looked upon as a golden opportunity to privatize the public utility. While elements in the ruling class stand to make a fortune from the catastrophe by privatization efforts, wiping out of “costly industries,” and behind-the-scenes no-bid contracts, the actual cost of the repairs—which is being estimated at above $100 billion—will fall squarely on the backs of the working class and poor. Already there have been announcements that highway tolls will rise by as much as 30 percent starting in January, likely before the traffic lights are even turned back on.

Despite efforts by the government to obscure reality, the devastating effects of the storm will be felt for years, if not decades to come.

London Grenfell Tower disaster, after six months

This 14 June 20217 video from London, England is called Rania Ibrahim’s Snapchat/Facebook. Live from inside the Grenfell Tower London fire. WITH SUBTITLES.

By Ann Czernik in England:

Grenfell six months on – we will remember them

Thursday 14th December 2014

With the great and the good attending a memorial service for Grenfell at St Paul’s Cathedral today, ANN CZERNIK remembers the victims

OF all the stories about the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, it is the social media post of the last moments of a young mother of two that returns to my thoughts repeatedly.

I do not know why Rania Ibrahim and her children died that day, trapped on the 24th floor of a poorly constructed London tower block with a single fire exit. One day, I hope that there will be answers to the many questions that Grenfell raises for our society.

On June 14 2017, the day of the fire, I awoke unusually early. The midsummer sun streamed through my bedroom window and, as I lay gazing up at the clear blue sky, there was no inkling of what was about to come.

Little did I know that, six months on, I would be writing about the death of a woman I’d never met with pain in my heart and tears in my eyes.

That morning, I checked my phone as usual and found frantic messages from a friend living near the tower who had posted pictures of the inferno. I switched on the news and gasped at the scene playing across my screen.

It was 5am and all I could think was that the building had failed to contain an outbreak of fire as it should have done. It was the only explanation for a blaze of that magnitude. What was puzzling was the speed at which it developed.

In the weeks that followed, I, like many other journalists, worked on various aspects of the investigation in mainstream media.

Within hours, I’d established that the cladding had been switched from an organic, non-combustible system to the cheaper and highly flammable combination. The cladding ignited shockingly quickly to create a grotesque fire.

Citizen video shot long before TV crews arrived on the scenes showed that the external fire began around 12.45pm and almost all of one side of the building was on fire by 1.30am.

ITV video of fire crews arriving on the scene showed a building beyond the reach of firefighters. The stunned reaction of experienced firefighters showed that they knew the likelihood of quickly extinguishing the fire was negligible.

The only option for the people hanging out of windows on every floor was evacuation.

But the single staircase quickly became engulfed in smoke, putting an end to any hope of reducing casualties.

This was even though a new smoke dispersal system had been installed when the building had been controversially refurbished a few years earlier

By 1.30am, survivors report clambering over bodies piling up on the stairs overcome by toxic fumes, and squeezing past firefighters making their way into the building.

It was a scene of utter carnage as, unable to go down, victims made their way to the upper floors in the hope that they would be rescued.

In the days and weeks that followed, a story of neglect, difference and contempt emerged.

Today is a day to remember the suffering of 225 survivors and mourn the death of 71 confirmed dead.

A national memorial service is being held in the name of the victims of Grenfell Tower at St Paul’s Cathedral to remember the victims of Britain’s worst fire since the second world war. The service will be broadcast live by the BBC.

Grenfell United chair Shahin Sadafi said: “December 14 will be a special day for our community. We are coming together to remember the loved ones we lost in the fire, to unite as a community and to start to build hope for the future. We hope we can come together as a nation and show our support to the bereaved families, survivors of the tower and the affected community.”

Kensington and Chelsea Council leader Elizabeth Campbell will not attend the service at the cathedral following a request from bereaved families. Neither will there be any official council representation at the service.

Prime Minister Theresa May will take her place at the event despite criticisms that she has failed survivors. She’s unlikely to receive a warm welcome.

Grenfell Tower survivors and families of the bereaved made the request to hold the National Memorial Service at St Paul’s. Ironically, the building itself was constructed following the Great Fire of London at a cost of the modern-day equivalent of £150 million.

During the second “great fire of London” — a night of sustained enemy bombing in World War II, Winston Churchill ordered that all firefighting resources be directed at St Paul’s.

The cathedral must be saved, he said, because damage to the fabric of the cathedral would sap the morale of the country.

In a break with tradition, Prince Charles married Princess Diana there, to become the “people’s prince”, but the iconic building is as much a symbol of status, class and power as the historic institutions of the crown and Churchill’s old order.

So it is ironic that the Grenfell survivors will be joining a lengthy list of British politicians, royalty and clergy in the cathedral’s ornate interior for the memorial.

The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will be in attendance. Even as royalty marries into modernism, it’s not clear if the institution of the crown will succeed in maintaining power by popularity after Grenfell.

If Grenfell is a symbol of the class war taking place in British society, the space the crown finds to occupy within that landscape will be defined by what the institution can do to help the people amid this battle for social equality taking place in Britain.

Lancaster West Residents’ Association chair Jacqui Haynes says: “The people in Grenfell Tower were forgotten about and ignored before the fire and this is a chance for people across the country to unite and stand with us.”

The communities around Grenfell have mixed views on the service — if they have registered that it is to take place.

Angry volunteers posted on social media that the migrant families they support have been excluded from the service because of language barriers.

For many migrant Muslim families, an Anglican service in English is seen in a very different light from that which perhaps the cathedral intended.

And in death, as in life, and the residents of Grenfell have faded into insignificance beside the dazzling stars of celebrity and privilege who are lining up to attend the memorial service.

Amid all the splendour and ceremony, let us recall Rania Ibrahim’s last moments.

Trapped on the 24th floor, the mother of two could be heard begging for help in a video recording she posted at 2.54am on the morning of the tragedy.

The video is a devastating document of the time the smoke reached the 24th floor. We hear the occupants of the flat tell her to close the front door because “you will bring the smoke in. You won’t be able to breathe. Your children … ”

As the voice tails off, we know the inevitable truth of what is about to happen.

Rania’s voice echoes into the eerily empty corridor as she calls into the silence: “Hello, is anybody there?”

As smoke fills the air, a neighbour appears out of the darkness. A frantic banging is heard: “Hello, hello?”

A man says the smoke is coming. Rania’s quiet tone masks the terror in her voice as she desperately prays in Arabic. Her camera is trained on the bottom of the tower and a siren is heard. Screaming subsides.

Beside her, a strong voice shouts: “Hello! There’s too many people stuck on the 23rd floor. Hello!” And then nothing.

Little is known of what happened inside Grenfell Tower between midnight and 3am on the night in question. Rania Ibrahim and her neighbours did not burn to death. Instead they died of smoke inhalation, trapped in a 24-storey building with a single fire exit and a newly installed smoke dispersal system which seemingly failed to keep the staircase free from smoke for long enough for all the occupants to escape.

Did brave Rania know she was going to die in the moments after her video was posted for posterity? Almost certainly.

Rania’s whispered prayer for forgiveness as she prepared to meet her God with her children in her arms will stay with me for years to come. How could any of us ever forget?

AHEAD of tonight’s Silent March to mark the six-month anniversary of the Grenfell Tower inferno, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has condemned the inclusion of a leading supporter and organiser of fire service cuts as an ‘expert witness’ to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry (GTI). The march starts at 6.30pm tonight from Notting Hill Methodist Church, as it has on the 14th of each month since the fire which killed at least 71 Kensington & Chelsea Council tenants in the flammable cladding-covered tower block on 14th June this year: here.

On June 14, fire engulfed the entire 24-storey structure of Grenfell Tower in London. Millions were horrified by terrible scenes, broadcast throughout the world, showing how a small fire in a fourth floor flat spread up the side of the building within minutes to become a raging inferno. It claimed at least 71 lives and left hundreds more grieving for their loved ones: here.

Grenfell Tower disaster commemoration in London

This video about London, England says about itself:


19 June 2017

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Memorial service to mark 6 months since fire tragedy

Thursday 14th December 2017

A MEMORIAL service to be held today for the 71 people killed in the Grenfell Tower fire will be an opportunity for “healing and truth,” bereaved relative Clarrie Mendy said yesterday.

Ms Mendy, whose cousin Mary Mendy and her daughter Khadija Saye died in the fire, helped organise the multi-faith service.

The service at St Paul’s Cathedral takes place on the sixth-month anniversary of the devastating fire.

Ms Mendy asked for the names of the 53 adults and 18 children who died to be read out.

She said: “I just hope this service reflects, I hope it resonates actually with people, with the hunger people have spiritually.

“A lot of people, right now there’s no trust in the government, a lot of people have more faith and trust in their religion.”

More than 1,500 people are expected to attend, around half of whom are bereaved families and survivors while the other half includes members of the North Kensington community, volunteers and first responders to the disaster.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Prime Minister Theresa May, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and some members of the royal family are expected to attend.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has criticised Ms May for refusing to create a diverse Grenfell inquiry panel as requested by survivors and their bereaved families in a petition handed to Downing Street on Tuesday.

He told the Star yesterday: “Nothing here in the UK so symbolises the indifference of powerful people and institutions to the lives of ordinary people as the Grenfell fire, the circumstances leading up to it and its aftermath.”

Puerto Rican hurricane disaster, Washington neglect

This video says about itself:

The U.S. Leaves Puerto Ricans to Rot

13 December 2017

More than a thousand people have died in Puerto Rico due to failed infrastructure after this year’s hurricanes.

London Grenfell Tower disaster still hurting

This video from England says about itself:

Grenfell Tower fire: how many survivors are still without permanent homes? – BBC Newsnight

12 December 2017

Why are so many Grenfell survivors still without permanent accommodation six months after the devastating fire? Newsnight’s David Grossman reports (produced by Matthew Thompson and Phil Kemp).

By Felicity Collier in Britain:

Extra mental health staff drafted in to help Grenfell survivors cope over Christmas

Wednesday 13th December 2017

Felicity Collier reports as health professionals due to attend St Paul’s memorial service

EXTRA mental-health staff will be on hand to help survivors and families of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire to cope over Christmas, the local NHS trust announced yesterday.

Health professionals will attend tomorrow’s memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral marking six months since the disaster in west London that killed 71 people.

Central & North West London NHS Trust has seen more than 1,800 people since June 14. More than half are adults identified as being in “urgent need” of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Local GPs have also seen 956 patients for other concerns to do with wellbeing and physical health and about a quarter have been screened for PTSD.

Trust chief operating officer Robyn Doran said: “It’s really important that we have a memorial service, but it will trigger things for people.

“And not all families have had the funerals yet, so that will also bring up things. It’s really important we’re there.”

Clarrie Mendy, whose cousin Mary Mendy died with her artist daughter Khadija Saye, said: “It’s just a nightmare and it seems to be getting darker every day.

“I don’t know any bereaved family that’s been able to get on with their life. They never will, never.”

A petition was delivered to Downing Street yesterday calling for an overhaul of the public inquiry, declaring that it would be a “tragedy” if survivors and bereaved families’ concerns were ignored.

Sandra Ruiz, Karim Mussilhy and a teenage girl, who all lost loved ones in the blaze, joined former resident Nicholas Burton to deliver the 16,000-signature document.

The petition is asking for a panel from a diverse range of backgrounds to represent the culturally diverse and working class North Kensington area to sit alongside Sir Martin Moore-Bick at the public inquiry.

PM Theresa May has powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 to opt for a panel-led inquiry rather than relying on one chairman.

The petition was delivered while the inquiry’s second day’s procedural hearings were being held. It was decided that a first phase of the inquiry will look into what happened on June 14, while a second phase will explore why and how the fire spread.

Criminal offences of manslaughter, corporate manslaughter, breaches of fire safety legislation and misconduct in public office will all be considered by the Metropolitan Police.

Jeremy Johnson QC confirmed that 383 companies have been identified in connection to the construction or refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

A final report is not due until autumn 2018.

Grenfell fire inquiry opens: No one faces police questioning until autumn 2018: here.