In the early hours of Wednesday 14th June a terrible tragedy happened. In one of the richest boroughs of London a fire broke out. The fire was in a tower block of flats and quickly spread, engulfing the entire building in flames. Only a few lower floors were saved from the blaze. Firefighters raced to put out the fire and save those trapped inside but they were against a towering inferno, one that was ablaze for many hours and still smouldering 24 hours before it was finally put out.
Most residents were trapped inside the building at the time of the fire, with little chance of escape. With flames and black smoke surrounding them it was difficult if not impossible for many to get out. There were reports of families trapped inside, residents screaming for help, a mother throwing her baby out the window in a desperate attempt to save it. Several days later and the death toll is already at 79 but is expected to be much higher. But why did this terrible tragedy happen? And could it have been prevented?
Nobody yet knows why the fire started, but there is a lot of speculation on the causes. Whether or not they turn out to be true, I don’t know. But one thing I do know is that this tragedy has left a mark on London, and one which has affected me personally. The main issue surrounding the disaster is one of money because the residents of Grenfell Tower were not the rich, well off people living in London. They were from the poorer end of society. Because the families living there were in social housing (subsidized/affordable – whatever you call it in other countries) there’s anger over whether this building’s safety was overlooked, something which would never happen in a rich, multi-million pound set of high-rise apartments. We can’t know for sure anything yet, and I am not accusing anyone or any government body, but the lack of sprinklers and questionable, flammable ‘cladding’ placed on the exterior of the building makes me wonder if the speculation has real truth.
The problem with the Grenfell Tower disaster is that it could have been prevented. It seems crazy in this day and age that a basic sprinkler system isn’t built into every tower block but the fact is it wasn’t. Some rumours are saying that even the fire alarms didn’t work. There are questions on this thing called ‘cladding’. I didn’t know what this was until now. It’s a substance that is used to cover the external walls of a building; it may have other uses but the most probable in the case of Grenfell Tower was to improve the appearance of the structure (making it less of an eye-sore in the area). But it’s suspected that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower is the cause for the fire’s quick spread around the building as the substance was flammable.
When I saw this on the news it hit a nerve with me. Not only the harrowing stories of people trapped, choosing to face the smoke inside or trying to throw themselves out of the building in the hopes they survive the fall. What hit home to me was the fact that it shouldn’t matter where these people live, what their income levels are…These were real people, the same as you and I, and they deserved respect and a decent home to live in.
Grenfell Tower residents are not the ‘scum of society’ like so many depict. It guts me when I hear people referring to the poor as the ‘dregs, wasters and scum’. It’s labels like these that put up barriers, stop us being kind and compassionate to our fellow human beings. Most of the poorer in society, those living in the Grenfell Tower are hardworking individuals, the likes of nurses, carers, cleaners, bus drivers, etc. People we rely on everyday. Syrian immigrants who came to the UK, to avoid being killed in their own country could now be dead inside the charred remains of the tower block. And many others. These people are human beings. Regardless of income, everyone has a right to live and feel safe in their homes. They deserve better from the government bodies that house them and the people who call them such names. So why in a society that is one of the richest in the world were safety precautions not made? Why in this day and age is there still a rich-poor divide akin to the days of Dickens?
This disaster affected me more than the others in London, because it wasn’t a terrorist attack. It was a stupid result of negligence, and it has cost so many people their lives. I’ve had the experience, as a young child, of living in such a building. The thoughts of ‘would I be here if it had happened to me all those years ago?’ keep repeating in my mind. I was lucky. I didn’t spend years living there, it was only as a very young child and I’m lucky to be living under different circumstances now. But I can remember what it was like and now wonder how many other areas of ‘poor’ housing face the same possible disaster? Was Grenfell Tower a warning? Is there another ticking time-bomb elsewhere in this country? Or around the world?
In relation to the daily prompt meddle
I realise this is a world away from my usual posts but this has affected me deeply, and besides I wanted this blog to be a place I could share any thoughts and veer away from books and art sometimes. Please do comment if you would like to. And don’t worry, I’m fine, it’s the people of Grenfell Tower I feel for.
I will be back to happier posts soon 🙂 In the meantime you can also find me here: