This time last week no one could have started to imagine the horrific housing nightmare that would unfold.
Grenfell Tower caught fire which rapidly spread and numerous people tragically lost their lives. Buildings should be designed to contain fire at its source and provide a means of escape that is protected from the ingress of smoke and fire, with ample audible warning provided by automatic fire detection and sprinklers to help reduce risk.
The events that happened during the night of 13/14th June 2017 were catastrophic. The unfolding developments have been widely and distressingly reported. It was not really my intention to write something too, but the event is so momentous a housing issue, and for so many reasons, that I felt that I probably should.
This fatal fire should not have happened. Neither should the other tower block fires of recent years. After Lakanal House, we probably all thought that things would be different. None of us imagined that they could be so very much worse.
What can anyone say about the terror that must have engulfed those poor trapped souls who perished? Or the emergency services who tried to help? Or those who were lucky enough to escape, but lost members of their family and friends? Or those neighbours who watched powerlessly as the inferno spread and heard the screams and the anguish but were unable to do anything? Or what about all of the housing organisations involved and the residents’ fears expressed in this blog?
Bad housing has multiple health effects: mental health has moved up the policy agenda and Grenfell Tower will affect the mental health of not just those who lived there and survived, but those who watched the horror unravel. It will surely affect how anyone now living in a similar tower block will feel about their own safety.
At the time of writing, the death toll was 30. It will be far higher. The community felt grief is already turning to anger. This is hardly surprising.
Latimer Road has been full of people who came to help, to see for themselves, to try to make sense of what has happened. Local streets and centres are full of heart breaking posters of so many missing people; messages of support and solidarity; of signs saying ‘help yourself to these provisions’ and ‘please don’t leave more, we are overwhelmed with generous donations’; of the living who can hardly bear to think of what happened to the dead.
Surely – this time – something very fundamental has to change.
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