Britain has marked the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster in London with the public enquiry still not complete and some survivors saying that “nothing has changed” since.
Karim Mussilhy, whose uncle Hesham Rahman died in the blaze, said “there’s not a lot of compliments right now for the government”, in an interview with the BBC. A lot has changed, but nothing has changed,” he said.
“We’re still talking about cladding; we’re still talking about justice. The public inquiry keeps stopping and starting. It never feels like there’s any urgency with the emergency that this country is in with the whole cladding situation.”
Another survivor, Tiago Alves, told the BBC: “We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy fight. Did I think we’d still be here three years on; still talking about the removal of cladding? I think that’s a bit absurd.”
Worst blaze since World War II killed 72 people
The country’s worst domestic blaze since World War Two killed 72 people and left many more injured or mentally scarred.
Cladding installed on the outside of the building for aesthetic purposes has been identified as the catalyst that turned a small kitchen fire in one of the flats into a rapidly spreading inferno that quickly engulfed the entire 24-storey building.
Recordings of conversations between fire brigade controllers and their teams on the ground at the time chronicled the utter horror of the fireman, who said they had never witnessed anything of this magnitude. Many expected they would not survive the incident.
Commemorations nationwide, despite restrictions
Across Britain, there were tributes and commemoration events, although mostly online due to pandemic restrictions.
“As a nation, we are still dealing with the consequences of what happened and working to make sure it never happens again,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a video message for an online commemoration service.
He added that stricter laws on fire safety had been introduced and that the government was working to implement “every recommendation made by the first phase of the public inquiry”.
Bells of London churches toll for victims
In tribute to each victim who died in the fire, the bells of London churches tolled 72 times and green lights glowed from tower block windows to show solidarity with survivors and the bereaved.
A silent march was held to honour victims and a video message from singer Adele, who visited the site shortly after the fire, was played to a virtual service.
“Even though we’re having to do this in the virtual world … it is still so important for us to mourn together, and for us to remember that night and to reflect on that and also reflect on where we are now,” she said.
Mayor will be relentless in pursuing justice
In a written statement, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he would be relentless in ensuring the Grenfell community gets justice and that Londoners would feel safe in their homes.
The second phase of the public inquiry into the disaster was paused in March because of the coronavirus pandemic and is due to restart in July. Authorities predict that no one is likely to face criminal charges until 2021.
Britain’s opposition Labour has estimated 56 000 people are still living in homes wrapped in the same flammable cladding as Grenfell Tower.