London Grenfell disaster survivors speak


This 15 June 2019 video from London, England says about itself:

Stormzy joins thousands on silent walk to remember Grenfell victims

Wearing a green scarf, like many others who gathered in west London near the burned-out building, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and rapper Stormzy joined mourners in a silent memorial walk.

Shortly before 1am on June 14, 2017, a small fire broke out in a kitchen in the Kensington high-rise block and became an inferno which claimed the lives of 72 people. The world watched in horror as the blaze engulfed the building with terrifying speed and spread to all four sides in just minutes – in what became the most deadly domestic blaze since the Second World War. For just over a year the building has stood surrounded by white sheeting, with the words ‘Grenfell forever in our hearts’ emblazoned across the four highest floors.

From the World Socialist Web Site in London, England:

“Everyone is fighting for justice, not only for the people for Grenfell Tower, but all the people around the world

Family members and supporters of Grenfell fire victims speak to the WSWS

By our reporters

17 June 2019

Socialist Equality Party (UK) members and WSWS reporters attended a number of public events over the weekend marking the second anniversary of the June 14, 2017 Grenfell Tower inferno, in which 72 people died. …

SEP members distributed hundreds of copies of its statement produced for the second anniversary, “Two years since the Grenfell inferno: The case for socialism,” as well as many copies of an article demanding the release from prison of respected local resident and campaigner for justice for the victims of the fire, Reis Morris.

Many people spoke of their sympathy for the plight of Reis—who lost family and friends in the fire and who had to spend the second anniversary behind bars—after he confronted a Grenfell site manager for ignoring his complaints. Many people told WSWS reporters that it was wrong that Reis had been imprisoned while those in political and corporate circles, who are responsible for the Grenfell inferno, were still at large.

At the Solidarity March for Grenfell held on Saturday, World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to Hamid Ali Jafari, the son of Ali Yawar Jafari, who lived on the 11th floor of Grenfell, and perished in the fire. Hamid was attending the event with his son.

“For me it’s not two years, it’s like it was yesterday,” Hamid explained. “For me I can see the community and the people, and everyone coming together. They give us support.”

Hamid (right) and his son with a photo of his father, Ali Yawar Jafari

Hamid explained that his father moved to the UK in 2003. “We came from Afghanistan, and my dad was a retired jeweller. We had lived in the tower for years. I used to live with them, but after I got married, we moved. At the time of the fire my mum, my dad and two sisters were living there.

“We had no idea before the fire that things were wrong. We thought that the people who make decisions were doing something right. We are not the politicians; we are not the scientists. The only problem was when we realised that when we had the boiler installed, we could not get access properly to the entrance to the flat.”

Hamid said, “We had no idea we were living somewhere so dangerous. If we had, we would not have let anyone die.”

He expressed the frustration of all the bereaved Grenfell families that they have still not been given answers as to why their loved ones perished and who is responsible. “A few months ago, we met [Prime Minister] Theresa May in Parliament, and my question was, we need closure, we don’t have to wait 25 years, we need something to be done, we need a result about why this happened, and who has done it.

“They [the government] say they will do their best, but say it depends on the public inquiry. Even this last Monday we met [Home Secretary] Sajid Javid in Parliament with [bereaved family’s group] Grenfell United, and everyone is demanding change. They [the government] just promise, but their promises have never been met, so let’s see.”

Hamid said, “That makes you upset, because I read in the newspaper last year that there was fire in a hotel in [wealthy] Knightsbridge. It was a five-star hotel, so they spend a hundred million pounds and they refurbished and reopened it.

“My question is: Grenfell Tower after two years, what have they done to it? They have only covered it [the exterior] up, so they show to the world that ‘we are doing something.’

“They spent £100 million on that five-star hotel. What have they spent on Grenfell Tower? This kind of things makes you upset. We are fighting for justice; I don’t know how long it will take.

“With the help of [the SEP] and the community, I think we will get justice. It might take time, but we have patience, we have waited two years. We keep our anger with us. Let’s see, we have hopes, we will fight for them.”

Asked his thoughts on the fact that so many people in Britain and around the world live in unsafe buildings, Hamid said, “That’s why we are demanding justice, not only for people who were lost. We don’t want other people to be sleeping where there is dangerous cladding blocks. As a government they have promised it and they have got the money to remove the cladding, but they haven’t done it yet.

“That’s why I think everyone is fighting for justice, not only for the people of Grenfell Tower, but all the people around the world. Either they are living in social housing, or they go to hospitals, schools, nurseries [covered with flammable cladding].”

Belgis Idriss

Among those who came to the SEP stall during Friday evening’s commemorations was local resident Belgis Idriss.

Still distraught and angry after the passing of two years, Belgis said, “There was 11 children lost in the tower from my son’s school, including the nursery teacher and her kids. But what surprises me is that we only hear loud voices from up on high, but no one wants to see the truth. No one wants to sit down and hear the truth, hear our pain. All we get is people coming here and saying we want to do this project, art therapy. Which art therapy? We do not need art therapy, we need the truth.

“We do not need flowers because they do not have a grave. Where are we going to put the flowers? All those people are still here around in the air, and it’s them that need the truth. They need justice. No one needs flowers and no one needs music and no one needs art therapy. We can only get the truth by the people fighting together under one word, justice.

“All the victims that are still alive know what happened to them was not human, and if all Europe said after the Second World War ‘never again’ then we must make this government say ‘never again’ can we have a crime like this. But to do that they must put the criminals responsible for this in prison.”

Linda Taylor

London resident Linda Taylor attended the Solidarity March for Grenfell held on Saturday.

She said, “Kensington and Chelsea is such a rich borough and they [the Conservative council] saved money on the cladding they used without any checking. Really, they did it to look nice for the rich people around there. It wasn’t for the people inside. It wasn’t helping them very much. They could’ve done a better job insulating their homes, giving decent sprinklers. There’ve been fires before in Grenfell that hadn’t spread the way that this did, but the cladding caused it, and nobody has been held accountable.”

She explained that in parliament the previous week, a debate was held on Grenfell “and only 14 MPs turned up, out of 600 of them. They’re not interested because they’ve got friends who’ve got property investments. … They’re not worried about making people they represent safe in decent homes. Look at our streets covered in homeless people. You only have to look at [former Conservative London Mayor and leading contender to replace Theresa May as prime minister] Boris Johnson selling a fire station and turning it into luxury flats, this sums up the whole situation. And to blame the fire service for not doing what they should’ve done is ridiculous, because they’re being cut and cut.”

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Mysterious echidna in London, England museum


This 17 June 2019 video from England says about itself:

What’s wrong with this echidna in the collection? | Natural History Museum

Echidnas are unusual among mammals, laying eggs and producing milk for their young.

But they might be more quirky than you think, with one particular feature confusing scientists in Europe when they saw one for the first time.

The Natural History Museum in London is home to over 80 million specimens, including meteorites, dinosaur bones and a giant squid.

Big Grenfell disaster commemoration in London, England


The front banner on Friday night’s Silent Walk in London, England on the 2nd anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire which claimed 72 lives

From daily News Line in Britain:

11,000 Residents & Supporters Join Grenfell Silent Walk

17th June 2019

MORE than 11,000 local residents and supporters joined last Friday evening’s 2nd Anniversary Silent Walk to commemorate the victims of the Grenfell Tower Fire of 14th June 2017.

Community worker Kim Sparrow was carrying a placard saying ‘Justice 4 Grenfell – Prosecutions Now!’

She told News Line: ‘All the things they’ve found out about the cladding makes it clear that those who authorised it should be prosecuted.

‘Also the politicians, locally and nationally, they are responsible too.

‘People are furious and absolutely demanding prosecutions. They’ve got to go to jail.’

Richard Jones, South East Region FBU, said: ‘We are here to remember those who lost their lives. The FBU is in complete solidarity with the people. There are loads of my colleagues here, absolutely loads.

‘It’s a disgrace that nothing has been done to remove the cladding in so many buildings. There are people living in these building completely worried for their safety. The needs of business are being put ahead of safety. It’s got to end.’

Local mother Manao Ahmed said: ‘I live in Magdalen House, just next to Grenfell. I was outside on the night and saw it all. It was horrible.’

Her friend, Zahoor Sharif, said: ‘I saw the people and I couldn’t help. I was crying. I knew three families. Three families of five and they died. Mum, Dad and three kiddies, 15 people. I knew their names.’

Care manager Asia Faraji said: ‘I live just here, up the road. I saw it all, the most traumatic event I’ve seen in my life, absolutely heartbreaking.

‘I believe the council is to blame. There are so many things that the building should have had. In my mind they killed these people. It’s absolutely sad, wasted lives.

‘They should be taken to court, prosecuted and jailed. If it was one of us neglecting health and safety we would have been made to pay for it. And they must pay.’

Sixteen-year-old Harvey Beeker said: ‘My dad woke me up and told me what was going on. I’ve been on most of the marches. We are all very angry. People must be jailed. We used to discuss it a lot but not so much now. But we are still very angry. There will be a revolution.’

17-year-old Jones Vary said: ‘I finished my GCSEs and left school today. On the day of the fire I woke up at midnight and had then had nightmares all night. The politicians should be held responsible, especially Theresa May.’

There were hundreds of firefighters wearing t-shirts saying: ‘Firefighters demand Justice 4 Grenfell – Decent Safe Homes for All. FBU.’

Val Hampshire, FBU South West Region Regional Treasurer, said: ‘There are hundreds of firefighters here today and they are countrywide. There’s a contingent from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well.

‘I am incredibly proud of our members who were here on the day and more than that, all public sector workers who deal with such things.

‘The reason we’re all wearing these t-shirts is to highlight the ongoing injustice.

‘To anyone who lives in a high-rise property that’s not properly looked after the bottom line is that the government and the councils need to start thinking about people not profits.’

Just before the 2nd Anniversary Silent Walk set off, famous rapper and poet Lowkey delivered a powerful poem which included the lines:

‘This is a message to the government and I hope it gets through, arrest them before we arrest you.

‘24 months and no arrests made … We fear a whitewash is their end game … This has to be a never again moment … We’re calling for the companies and councils to be held accountable …

‘We will not betray the dead because betrayal of them is betrayal of the living.’

Supporters of the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, gathered opposite Downing Street on Saturday morning for a solidarity march.

By lunchtime there were many trade union banners with many from the Fire Brigades Union; from Oxfordshire, Shropshire Staffordshire & Warwickshire, Yorkshire & Humberside, East Midlands, Scottish Region, North East Region, South West Region,- London Metropolitan University, and Dundee Trades Council and many more.

Rena Smith told News Line: ‘It think it’s outrageous. They’ve put the inquiry on ice to hope that people will forget about the fire, so that the private companies can get their stories right.

‘This was a crime against all of us.

Grenfell was the result of cuts to public services and privatisation and the civil response since has been appalling, for example trying to blame firefighters. Pointing the finger away from themselves.

‘They should absolutely re-house the families, paying reparations to survivors and renationalising public housing so people have safe places to live in.’

There is a podcast interview with Moira Samuels, from Justice for Grenfell, ‘Future Heist’.

A deputation of workers came from Dundee Trades Council. Jim Malone said: ‘We have travelled down in solidarity with the Grenfell community. This is a message from our class. We’re going to remember the dead but fight for the living.

‘We are also holding the establishment to account for this austerity. I’m ex-fire service. I know what death and fire entails. This is a disaster visited on the community by the richest borough in the UK.’

Ian Vincent from Justice for Grenfell, said: ‘It’s a travesty that something like this occurred. Whoever did the testing it was inadequate, and led to lives lost and ruined.

‘The potential for this to happen again is still here. There was a recent fire in Barking. It was cheaper for someone to pay a fine, rather than use the correct materials. Somebody signed off on this cladding re-furbishment, and the contracts and payments – and we want to know who and bring them to account. They put people in unsafe homes.

‘What the council and the government has done is disgusting. There has been little support. Most of it has come from the community. Still people are not housed properly. We just want a decent environment to live in.

‘If it was a more affluent area, it might have been different. People suffered and are still suffering.’

Sam, a school leaver, said: ‘One of the fatalities, Isaac, was a friend of mine. I feel really passionate and angry at Kensington and Chelsea council not doing more to help the families of the victims.’

His friend, Catherine, said: ‘There are over 400 tower blocks with cladding but only 280 are awaiting de-cladding. There are still many without sprinklers or suitable fire doors. This is all about profit.

‘It’s about time this Tory government went.’

Pete Smith, Yorkshire and Humberside FBU said: ‘We need to show solidarity with the survivors of Grenfell. Nothing’s changed since two years ago and that’s what we are all demanding. It looks like the inquiry is a government cover-up. Building standards and inspections have been de-regulated to such low standards, it’s got to be reversed.

‘The closure of ten fire stations in London obviously affects turn-out. Even then, anywhere else in the country, they wouldn’t have been able to cope with it.

‘Nationally there have been savage cuts and 20% of the workforce has been cut. The fact that fire deaths are going up is not a coincidence, it’s due to cuts. This government should be investing … Hopefully it won’t be around much longer. We’ll keep fighting till we get the change this country needs.’

Nicola Hawes from Nottingham, said: ‘We did the walk yesterday. I wanted to come and show my support. They’re using the fire brigade as a scapegoat for their mistakes. They’re not doing anything about it.

‘Some people get the impression it’s because Grenfell was social housing. They didn’t listen. Hundreds of buildings are still dangerous for people – but also for the fire service. We can’t do our job.

‘As firefighters we stand firm with the people of Grenfell and hope it never happens again. Our region, East Midlands is doing the silent march next month.’

Moira Samuels from Justice for Grenfell said from the podium: ‘11,000 people last night came to remember. Two years on there is very little progress. There is enormous frustration that the public inquiry will not report till 2020. There is no interim report to phase 1.

‘It’s time to call out this government. We will not continue to wait. We expect to see accountability. We can’t go on with empty promises. Families still want housing, when Theresa May said they would have this within three weeks.’

A London firefighter said: ‘There have been previous fires at Grenfell Tower but they did not spread. Only a month or two after the Grenfell fire there was one at Whitstable House an identical block to Grenfell, which was immediately contained, but it did not have cladding. It’s widely believed that cladding is lethal yet it’s on lots of public buildings like hospitals and schools.

‘The FBU just released the “Never Again Campaign”. There has to be an increase in fire cover and proper fire safety standards restored.’

There was a speaker from the Grenfell Trust and a message from Jeremy Corbyn.

After the march the rally was addressed by Kye Gbangbola, father of Zane, who tragically died, aged 7 as a result of hydrogen cyanide poisoning from a landfill site near his home, and FBU President Ian Murray.

London Grenfell fire disaster, Conservatives learned nothing


Firefighters form a guard of honour at the first anniversary march for the London Grenfell Tower fire

From daily News Line in Britain:

‘Sleepwalking towards another catastrophe’ – FBU statement marking 2 years since Grenfell fire

14th June 2019

‘WE RISK sleepwalking into another catastrophic loss of life. We demand urgent action from the government to ensure that the events of Grenfell Tower can never happen again’, Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) general secretary, said in a special statement released today to mark the second anniversary of the horrific fire.

Wrack warned that because of savage Tory cuts to the fire service, if a similar fire broke out, they would not have the resources to deal with it.

Wrack said: ‘The second anniversary of Grenfell must be a moment of both heartfelt reflection and determined action.

‘We have seen 72 lives tragically lost, in a wholly preventable blaze, all while desperately firefighters risked their own lives to save others in a fire nobody had planned for.

Firefighters and emergency fire control staff never want to see a fire like that again, and are calling on the government to take immediate action.

‘In the time since the fire, the government’s facile approach has utterly failed all those involved that night and the thousands of people who are at risk across the country.

‘After two years, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has delivered no answers and we are no closer to tackling any of the underlying causes of the tragedy.

Countless homes are still wrapped in flammable materials, while warnings from tenants about risks to their safety go ignored.

‘Fire and rescue services are, in the face of continued cuts, unable to prepare for a similar incident, with no national structures or coordination from government.’

Meanwhile, tower blocks across England have been lit up in a series of guerrilla projections highlighting a national fire safety crisis that appears to be getting worse rather than better.

As night fell on Wednesday, buildings in London, Greater Manchester and Newcastle were illuminated with messages up to 12 storeys high warning that two years after the fire that killed 72 people, they are still not fitted with sprinklers, have defective fire doors or are wrapped in dangerous cladding.

Luxury apartments, NV Buildings in Salford were illuminated with a message that read: ‘2 years after Grenfell and this building is still covered in dangerous cladding. #DemandChange.’

In London at Frinstead House on the Silchester estate, which neighbours Grenfell, the projection highlighted its lack of sprinklers.

Frinstead is just a stone’s throw from Whitstable House. The tower block was subject to a bin fire only a few weeks ago, and as smoke rose through the bin shaft and started to fill the landings all the way up to the 16th floor, no fire alarm or smoke alarm sounded.

This evening thousands are expected to join the silent walk through the streets of North Kensington, and on Saturday there is a march through central London to Parliament demanding justice for Grenfell.

THE Fire Brigades Union (FBU) called today for urgent action on a range of fire and building safety issues to prevent another Grenfell: here.

The Grenfell Tower fire of June 14, 2017 is an event seared into the consciousness of working people across London and around the world. 72 men, women and children perished in their homes. As part of its “regeneration” plans, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council and its tenant management organisation (KCTMO) encased Grenfell in cheap, flammable cladding causing a small kitchen fire to engulf the building in minutes: here.

London fire again, two years after Grenfell


This 9 June 2019 video says about itself:

UK: Barking fire under control after it destroys 20 flats in east London

Firefighters subdued a fire in an east London apartment block at De Pass Gardens in Barking district after the flames destroyed at least 20 flats on Sunday. According to Incident Commander Pat Goldburn, 15 fire engines and around 130 firefighters combatted the blaze at its height. “Unfortunately there has been some multiple properties that have been affected by this incident”, said Goldburn who added that two people were injured in the fire. The fire started at 15:31 local time (14:31 GMT) and its cause is currently under investigation.

By Daniel O’Flynne in London, England:

East London fire guts six-storey residential block on eve of Grenfell Tower inferno’s second anniversary

11 June 2019

Twenty flats were destroyed by fire and 10 more damaged by heat and smoke Sunday, in Barking, east London.

The previous day, a huge fire ripped through what was the Jordanhill university campus building in Glasgow. The building was being redeveloped into more than 400 flats costing between £246,500 and £625,000.

No lives were lost in either fire, though a man and a woman were treated for smoke inhalation in De Pass Gardens, Barking.

Taking place on the weekend before the June 14 second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower inferno that claimed 72 lives, the blazes confirm the abject failure of the Conservative government … and private corporations to end the threat posed to working people from substandard accommodation and the gutting of fire-safety regulations.

The burnt out residential block in De Pass Gardens, Barking

The fire in Barking engulfed the ground floor to the sixth floor at the top of the low-rise flat complex. It was eventually brought under control after three hours, at 6.00 p.m., by 15 fire engines and 100 firefighters, who arrived as residents were being evacuated.

The cause of the fire is not known. An investigation has been launched, but reports suggest that a wooden balcony was set ablaze by a barbecue and the fire then spread to similar balconies on all six floors.

As with Grenfell, the privately owned flats had been the subject of safety complaints by residents regarding the use of wood on the external aspects of the building. Peter Mason, chair of the Barking Reach residents’ association, took up the issue last month after a “BBC Watchdog” programme reported fire safety problems at two similar developments by the same builder in Scotland.

Builders Belway Homes is reported to have reassured residents that the wood was treated to be fire retardant. The Guardian quoted an email from Belway Homes stressing that the “construction method was different to the ones in the report.” The email concluded, “We understand that these news articles are highly alarming for all residents of new homes and I hope that the above statement has allayed any fears you may have over the safety and construction of your Bellway home.”

Mason noted that managing agents hired a fire warden to carry out patrols because of concerns about fire safety.

The potential for further disasters is enormous. The new estate, built in 2013, is large and made up of similar buildings.

Vilma

Vilma has lived on the first floor of the gutted block since it opened. She told the WSWS, “The water sprinklers were not working, the fire alarm was not working, the fire doors are always open. And a fire marshal guy has been sitting for six, seven months from last November, from 7 p.m. to the morning, to wake up people if there was a fire. We knew that something was wrong as we spoke with the management letting association. But we did not get any answer. We asked why do we have to have this marshal here as we do not feel safe. What is wrong?

“Every time we called a meeting the rep did not attend. They sent someone else who knew nothing.

“When the fire brigade arrived they could not find a water hydrant. They had to waste 10 minutes. That’s why it’s only this block that has been burned, because when they found the water they were able to stop it from spreading.

“I live on the first floor. It’s completely gone. You need to report that it is not safe.

“They are now building again. They said that this wood would resist fire. They even gave us a timeframe of an hour and a half. That’s how safe they said it was. It took seven minutes to spread to all the building. They are liars.

“All the blocks are the same in this estate. This is just one block of many, and they want us to stay here depending on the condition of the house. How can we live here now? We have just been told that in three hours we can go in to see what we can salvage.”

Esther Aladje

Esther Aladje lived opposite the block. She explained, “My three boys were in the house, I was at church. I got messages, as I could not pick up the phone. And when I got the messages, they said, ‘Fire!’ I ran as fast as possible. We heard a lot of shouting, noise and so we had to leave immediately.

“By the time we came the boys were outside the house without clothes—no slippers, nothing, in the cold. One of them has a health condition and they were inhaling the smoke.

“The boys said it was really, really hot. If you can see in the front of the house all the window glass and the window frames are melted. That’s the impact of the heat. They are all doubled glazed.

“I feel for the people in the block as we know almost everyone. We see the children every day and we wave at each other. The blocks are just six years old.

“When we moved in, I was concerned by the fact that the outside of the blocks was clad with wood. My neighbour told me that the fire moved from the first house to the next in under 10 minutes via the wood. Whatever they used I am sure was not safe. Even the plastic doors from the balcony are all melted. How is this possible in 2019?”

Many buildings nationally are fire hazards.

According to Inside Housing, 164 high-rise private blocks have still not had highly flammable aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding replaced and nearly half had no firm plan in place to do so. The government is making just £200 million available to fund the removal of ACM.

The government has not tested any cladding material other than ACM, including high-pressure laminate (HPL) cladding, which burns 115 times hotter than non-combustible products. There are 34 high-rise blocks owned by social landlords that are clad in HPL, which was blamed for the spread of flames during the Lakanal House fire, which killed six people in 2009. The government has not even set a date for a large-scale test for HPL.

In a test on care homes by the London Fire Brigade, the borough of Bromley had the highest number, with 71 care homes receiving a notice of deficiencies. In addition, 20 in Redbridge and 16 in Havering failed to meet fire standards.

A survey by the Shelter housing charity showed that over half of people renting a home from a local authority or housing association have had a problem with the building in the past three years—including electrical hazards and gas leaks. Among those with a problem, one in 10 had to report it more than 10 times.

THIS FRIDAY marks two years since the horrific Grenfell Tower fire, and local residents and firefighters are furious that no lessons have been learned after another fire engulfed six floors of a tower block in Barking, east London on Sunday. Once again, flammable cladding fuelled the rapid spread of the fire, but this time the cladding was made of wood! In the weeks leading up to this latest fire, which broke out at 3.00pm and destroyed twenty flats, the residents’ association had demanded that fire risks at De Pass Gardens, Barking, be investigated: here.

London Mayor condemns May’s ‘utterly shameful’ response to Grenfell: here.