London high-rise fire: Residents had warned about ‘catastrophic event’ at Grenfell Tower
Residents at the Grenfell Tower in west London, where an overnight fire killed at least 17 people and injured more than 70 others, had warned for years that the apartment building was a “serious fire” risk.
The Grenfell Action Group, a community organization, warned the owners of the building — the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO) — in a November 2016 blog post about the possibility of a “catastrophic event” at the 24-storey building.
“It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders,” the group wrote.
The Grenfell Action Group had written several posts as far back as 2013 warning of fire hazards at the tower, including service vehicles being parked overnight in emergency access areas, posted images of garbage, including discarded mattresses, collecting at the building’s entrance and raised concerns about testing and maintenance of firefighting equipment.
“We have blogged many times on the subject of fire safety at Grenfell Tower and we believe that these investigations will become part of damning evidence of the poor safety record of the KCTMO should a fire affect any other of their properties and cause the loss of life that we are predicting,” the group wrote.
VIDEO GALLERY: London high-rise apartment fire
Witnesses described a desperate scene as residents attempted to escape from the apartment building that became engulfed in flames, with one woman throwing her baby from a window to a man on the ground who managed to catch the child.
“This is an unprecedented incident,” Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters. “In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale.”
One resident who lives on the 16th floor said his fire alarms did not go off.
“I’m lucky to be alive. A neighbour’s smoke alarm went off and another neighbour phoned and told me to get out,” Edward Daffarn, 55, told the Associated Press. “I consider this mass murder.”
Police have said the death toll is currently at 17 but that number is likely to rise “during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days.”
In a July 2014 newsletter for residents, the landlord said the building was designed “according to rigorous fire safety standards” and recommended that in case of a fire residents should stay inside their apartments.
Rydon, the company that completed the tower’s renovations in 2016, said in a statement its work “met all required building control, fire regulation, and health and safety standards,” the Associated Press reported.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement that investigators will work to determine what circumstances led to the tragedy.
“There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers,” Khan said.
— With files from the Associated Press
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