Grenfell: 5 Questions About The London Fire That Need To Be Answered

Anger? No. There needs to be a whole new word made in the English language to describe what we and others feel about the smoldering high-rise mass-grave that is Grenfell Towers.

There has already been a mountain of information written about the devastating fire in a West London tower block. But, like the building itself, so much remains shrouded in dark smoke and ash that residents and ordinary citizens are left wondering, what in the world is going on?

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but as the news filtered in – or more accurately DIDN’T filter in, even I felt like someone or some group was going through extraordinary lengths to cover up wrong doing.

Here are 5 simple questions about the London fire that demands honest and clear answers:

  1. Was the cladding on the building legal?

Everyone knows that the most likely culprit in this situation seems to be the cheap cladding covering the building, which had flammable material in it. It is continually presented as a cost-saving decision with the princely sum of £6000 being saved over the non-flammable version.

Yet, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has clearly stated that he believes it is illegal in the UK and therefore someone has broken the law by using this material. [1] So either someone has made a negligent decision to prioritise profit over safety or deliberately broken the law. Either way, there seems to be no effort to identify who they are and put them on trial. Instead a public enquiry, that can take years and cost more than the compensation they’ll end up giving the victims, will be launched.

  1. Why wasn’t there a sprinkler or alarm system in place?

In the UK, just to make an extension to your house requires planning permission and the type of discussion that other countries have when making their constitution. Does it obstruct your neighbour’s light? How many feet does it stick out from the main property? Is it in keeping with the rest of the houses on the street? The list is long.

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So how did someone manage to build a high-rise building without the very basics required for fire safety like a functioning alarm system, escape route and sprinklers? Their absence is negligent at best.

  1. Why was the wrong advice given to families and individuals i.e. to stay inside?

This is not the first time that a fire has taken place in a high-rise building. The fire department as well as everyone else in the industry must have known that they had no reliable method of either getting the water to reach the fire on the upper floors or to get those trapped out. Why would they then give the advice to stay where they are and continue giving that advice throughout the night till it was too late?

It is difficult to overstate the enormity of this point. Official advice given by professionals and the council was likely complicit in the deaths of hundreds of people. How was this advice allowed to be given? How can we expect people to listen to official advice again if officialdom got it so wrong with such devastating consequences?

  1. Why wasn’t more of an effort made to extract people from the upper floors?

We know that fire fighters put themselves in harms way to save as many people as they could. They are heroes and did an amazing job. Yet, beyond these brave men and women, what other methods were used to extract people from the upper floors?

In other countries, attempts have been made to land helicopters on the roof of buildings and to drop large volumes of water on fires using aerial means. [2], [3] It beggars belief that the narrative seems to be that any fire over a certain number of stories is essentially unmanageable.

To give just one example, a fire engine with the longest ladder in the UK was used to search the building AFTER the fire. [4] This ladder didn’t reach to the top of the building, but it reaches far enough to have potentially saved dozens of lives. Yet, it wasn’t even deployed from Surrey, which is less than an hour away. Why?

  1. Why has the total of dead been suppressed?

How is it possible that a major disaster takes place and it takes weeks to come up with a reasonable estimate of the dead? I know the official answer. The official answer is that we need to identify each of the dead, that this is painstaking work and we wouldn’t want to get it wrong.

However, the way the numbers have steadily increased and continue to rise leads one to the assumption that we are being drip-fed the information to manage anger. Anyone who tries to argue that this was for the sake of the families, has no idea how much anguish these families were put through looking for “missing relatives” when they should have been grieving.

Out of the hundreds missing, it is entirely reasonable to accept that the majority were trapped in the tower and had passed away. Giving an official estimate of the number of dead would have been a better response, but instead we were told that 6 people were dead, then 12, then over 30 and so on. By all means, take your time in verifying the identities of the dead and the EXACT number, but not giving an estimate from day one isn’t protecting anyone but those responsible from the fury of the court of public opinion.

Conclusion

Even as we speak, potentially hundreds of dead remain on the tower – without the dignity of a burial, a grave or a goodbye. They have gone to their maker, but those they left behind are traumatised and they are haunted.

Even the response from the authorities so far seems inadequate and as an afterthought in comparison to the spontaneous efforts of volunteers and ordinary citizens. (If you would like to contribute towards a fund for the victims, please click here.)

We didn’t just lose hundreds of lives in the inferno of Grenfell tower. We lost our trust. If the authorities want to rebuild that, they could start by answering these questions and listening (not talking at) the people affected.

 

References:

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4615012/Chancellor-claims-Grenfell-cladding-illegal.html
[2] http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/29/national/tokyo-create-helicopter-based-fire-rescue-unit/#.WUgV2BPytE5
[3] http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-butler-rooftop-helipads-fire-20141007-story.html
[4] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4619444/UK-s-longest-fire-ladder-helps-Grenfell-Tower-body-hunt.html

3 / View Comments

3 responses to “Grenfell: 5 Questions About The London Fire That Need To Be Answered”

  1. shondhabati says:

    Salam
    I have thought about the stay put in your own apartment advice. There was only one fire-exit staircase. The fire brigade needed the staircase to be free in order to access the trapped people inside. Therefore, the standard practice is to have everyone stay where they are and the firemen going to them to retrieve them. The apartment doors should be built in such a way that its able to withstand fire for sometime even when the fire is directly outside the apartment. But I think no one was prepared about how quickly the fire spread…

  2. John H says:

    Are you inferring that this is a deliberate attempt by the authorities to kill muslims? Really do you believe that? Are you making this a white versus coloured issue?
    Look at the facts
    1.
    The building is an old building that goes back to the 1970’s when fire extinguishers were not compulsory. It has been reported that many of the occupants resisted the installation of extinguishers because it was inconvenient and perhaps they were also worried about being found out at how many people were living there in each apartment.
    2.
    They will be looking into this cladding issue and it will be done as according to British law Would you have it other wise? This cladding is being used in many countries around the world and it is not just a UK problem.
    3.
    As explained in the other gentleman’s comments it is standard practice to try and contain the fire in a compartment and bearing in mind that this is an old structure 600 people trying to get down one fire escape could have made the situation even worse.
    4
    Helicopter rescue? Are you really serious? The updraft from the fire would have made it seriously dangerous for the crew of the helicopter to try to land on that roof. Also the roof is again over 40 years old and was never designed to take a helicopter. As for dropping “water bombs” where would these items of equipment have come from. This type of equipment has very little use in a country like the UK. As for the ladder situation well we all learn from situations like this and bear in mind the fire services were already on site when the conflagration erupted. By all accounts it happened extremely quickly and I doubt that calling for this longer ladder would have gotten there in time.
    5
    The authorities do not know how many were living in that building because many of these tenants have sublet and I suspect it was all illegal. The building was designed for the 70’s where families are not the size of many immigrant families who now live in the UK are. They will not make prognosis on how many are dead until they can confirm by body count. If people are angry well frankly they will have to contain themselves until the experts decide how safe it is to extract those bodies. We don’t need more people to die.
    Many of these people came to the UK for a better life than they experienced in their own country. And for the survivors of this disaster they have from UK government received much much more than they would ever have received back home. This fire was not deliberate of the government and it is doing all it can to alleviate the welfare of the survivors. When my family member lost his home some years ago there was no state support for he and his family. It is a disaster and it is very sad that so many have lost their lives but do not make it to be a conspiracy . Everyone in hindsight can think of ways to do it better but would you have done a better job?

    • WAJID says:

      Dear John H – Of course no one is inferring that this was a deliberate attempt to kill anyone.

      The fact that you would ask such a question, the tone of your response, the use of words like “illegal” and “they will just have to contain themselves” and the inability to accept that there is ANY point to answer at all says far more about you than it does about anything else.

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