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Thursday 15th
posted by Morning Star in Britain

At least 12 dead after years of complaints being ignored

RESIDENTS of the west London tower block that went up in flames on Tuesday night had repeatedly warned that a catastrophe was “inevitable” after years of ignored complaints, it was revealed yesterday.

At least 12 people were confirmed dead after fire struck the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, with numbers likely to rise as fire crews make their way through the gutted building. Twenty people were in critical condition in hospital.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing people jumping from windows and one woman dropping her baby to people below.

Fire crews were called to the scene on Latimer Road in west London at 12.54am, where 250 firefighters and 100 medics attended throughout the day.

There had been no fire alarm, residents said, with many relying on neighbours to wake them.

The 1970s-built block houses several hundred people and was refurbished last year with new exterior cladding and windows to improve insulation, at a cost of £8.6 million.

Local campaign group Grenfell Action said on its blog yesterday that its warnings about fire safety — including that access to the building was “severely restricted” for emergency services vehicles — fell on “deaf ears.”

It said: “We predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.”
Grenfell Tower Residents Association’s former chair David Collins said the group had concerns about fire escape routes and lighting, and that the council “refused to investigate. They wouldn’t believe that the residents were concerned.”

He said 90 per cent of residents signed a petition asking for an investigation into the block’s management company Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), but the council rejected it.

Parliament’s all-party fire safety group chair Jim Fitzpatrick, a Labour MP, said: “We’ve been pressing for fire sprinkler systems in buildings over a height level and in places where there is vulnerability, care homes and in schools — and government has been resisting that for some time.”

In 2009, a fire at Lakanal House tower block in Camberwell left at least a dozen dead, and Southwark Council was fined £570,000 over safety failings.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “[Camberwell and Peckham MP] Harriet Harman raised all these issues after that fire and the report demanded that sprinklers should be fitted to all these buildings.

“If you deny local authorities the funding they need, then there is a price that’s paid by a lack of safety facilities all over the country.”

Last year, the Labour leader tried to pass through amendements to the Housing and Planning Bill that would require private landlords to make homes safe and “fit for human habitation.”

But it was rejected by 312 votes to 219 including by 72 MPs who are landlords themselves, among them Tories Sajid Javid and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Kensington’s new Labour MP Emma Dent Coad echoed Mr Corbyn’s sentiments, saying: “I have brought it up quite a few times.

“In my [council] ward, we have three tower blocks and all of them have had fires recently.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters and other emergency services have been working through the night to secure the building and to save as many lives as possible.

“A full investigation will need to be undertaken at the first possible opportunity to establish exactly what happened and what can be done to prevent such an incident happening again.”

KCTMO chief executive Robert Black said: “Currently we’re focussing on helping those residents and London Fire Brigade is investigating the safety of the tower’s structure but we will issue a further statement in due course.”

Construction firm Rydon stated that its work “met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards,” adding that it would co-operate with the authorities and emergency services and their inquiries.