The shocking Grenfell Tower fire

The three top pictures are courtesy of Natalie Oxford, who documented the fire throughout the night from her flat in a tower block nearby.

The Kensington Society’s heartfelt thoughts and deepest sympathies are with all of those affected by the horrific Grenfell Tower fire, which began a few minutes before 1am on Wednesday 14 June and wasn’t fully extinguished until Friday 16 June. The death toll is constantly rising, and by Monday 19 June the Metropolitan Police’s guesstimate was 79.

While it is obvious that immediate response from the council and the government was woefully inadequate – in contrast to the army of volunteers who immediately began to take care of those made homeless by the fire as well as the flood of clothes and food that began to arrive from all over London while the tower was still burning – very few other facts have yet been established in a news reporting full of conflicting claims and finger-pointing.

The police investigation and the promised public inquiry will hopefully clarify how a small fire in one single flat could so quickly engulf a whole tower block and answer the many questions we all ask: Was the cladding faulty, illegal or inappropriately attached? Were concerns from the residents wilfully or arrogantly ignored? Were existing fire regulations ignored or just inadequate? Was the building inspection after the refurbishment thoroughly or poorly done? Did the council have any disaster plan in place that should have been implemented (it didn’t in 2007, when thousands of homes were flooded with sewage, due to heavy rain filling up the Counters Creek sewer)? And why did it take so long before local and national authorities managed to relieve the exhausted volunteers?

While the community groups giving relief have no more need for clothes, blankets and food, there is a continued need for money, to help the survivors back on their feet. The £5 million pledged by the government will probably not be sufficient and there is also some uncertainty as to how that money will be used.

The following is from Carolyn Arnold, chairman of the Clarendon Cross Resident’s Association:

There are some amazing local community groups, charities and church groups which operate on a year round basis in the wider community around Norland offering services to the young and old and those in between to keep them off the streets, give them help and guidance in seeking training, employment, housing and other support.  Most have had their public funding cut back as a result of the austerity measurers over the past few years, and have been able to keep going, largely, as a result of those local people and benefactors who have decided that they were worth helping and have chosen to donate funds or volunteer as fund raisers or helpers in delivering services e.g.. homework clubs, mentors, specialist advisers or support workers.

Since the early hours of Wednesday morning, when tragedy struck at Grenfell Tower, it has been these groups, community halls and local churches that have leapt into action immediately to offer the vital help, support, shelter and a haven of safety and reassurance for the victims and displaced residents of Grenfell Tower and neighbouring blocks which were evacuated during the fire. They have opened their doors and mobilised their volunteers to help, with no need for bureaucracy or red tape, and have worked tirelessly to help in whatever way necessary. Without these groups the already desperate situation would have fallen apart into despair and there’s no telling what the impact would have been on the victims and the wider community. as chaos ensued. So whilst the Grenfell Tower disaster has shone a light on the fact that there is no effective ‘disaster plan’ in RBKC or across the Tri-Boroughs to deal with such an eventuality (it could just as easily been a plane crash or gas explosion) the community groups were there to pick up the pieces, and not only help the victims and provide some sort of structure but also play some part in encouraging calm when emotions and tempers were and are still running high!

Those wishing to give a contribution are advised to contact:

* The Kensington & Chelsea Foundation (which since the weekend has had technical problems with their own donation page, so they suggests people use their pages on fundraising sites The Big Give or JustGiving until those problems have been resolved)

* The K&C Foundation’s Big Give page

* The K&C Foundation’s JustGiving page

* The British Red Cross’ London fire relief fund

On Friday, the K&C Foundation released a first £100,000 to the five organisations at the frontline (Rugby Portobello Trust, ClementJames Centre, Venture Community Association, The Harrow Club and Westway Trust), who then immediately began to pass on that money as immediate relief to the survivors from Grenfell Tower, to help them pay for food, transport and other things during the coming weeks.

If you want to lend a hand in the support effort, please register your interest by emailing, including your name, contact number and availability.

A book of condolence has been opened at Kensington Town Hall. The council will also open a book of condolence nearer to the site of the fire as soon as that can be done without impeding the work of the emergency services.

Published 2017-06-19