6 months on, UK remembers deadly tower blaze

London: Britain marked on Thursday the six-month anniversary of London’s Grenfell Tower fire that killed 71 people, with most survivors still awaiting permanent housing and sagging confidence in a public probe into the tragedy.
Those who escaped the inferno and the families of the dead were joined by the royal family and Prime Minister Theresa May in a national memorial service at Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
While the service was an opportunity for quiet reflection, anger at the disaster is still simmering, while the aftermath remains unresolved.
The fire, which started with a faulty refrigerator on the fourth floor, engulfed the 24-storey west London tower in the early hours of June 14, rapidly spreading up the new cladding on the outside.
The painstaking process to identify all the remains found in the tower took months.
“December 14 will be a special day for our community,” said Shahin Sadafi, who chairs the Grenfell United survivors’ group.
“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.”
May joined the mourners for the service, after being forced to try to restore confidence in the public inquiry into the fire.
“We will welcome her, but she will have to come and face us and we will be asking those questions of her. It’s not much to ask,” said Sandra Ruiz, who lost her niece in the fire. Retired appeal court judge Martin Moore-Bick is presiding over the probe.
However, a 16,000-strong petition called for a diverse panel to assist him, fearing he would not have an understanding of issues like living in public housing.
A separate police investigation is also under way and will determine whether any criminal charges can be brought against individuals or corporate entities. It is expected to run until late 2018.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, May promised that survivors would be guaranteed new homes on the same terms, within three weeks, as close as possible to the north Kensington area where they had been living.
However, of the 208 households needing rehousing, 118 are facing Christmas in emergency accommodation — many in hotels — or living with friends, said Grenfell United. — AFP