|A shocking photo of exposed gas pipes serving flats in Grenfell Tower after the refurbishment by Kensington and Chelsea council was completed.|
The way the authorities have dealt with the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire takes your breath away. Time and again they have shown absolute contempt for the working class people who lived in the tower and the adjoining estate.
Understandably there is widespread scepticism amongst the survivors and their supporters about the official death toll, amid ongoing concern the police and council have been far too slow in releasing information about the numbers.
According to the Guardian:
It's led to Grenfell residents' groups compiling lists of victims and survivors, Sajad Jamalvatan, a biomedical engineering student who lived on the third floor of the block, has established a Whatsapp community of 86 families who escaped from the block, calling the group Grenfell United. From conversations with these residents over the past fortnight he is sceptical about the police death toll of 79 and believes that the actual number is likely to be above 120.
While there is widespread acceptance that police and coroners are working in uniquely challenging conditions, unable to access parts of the building that are too dangerous to enter, there is frustration among residents that officials have not released a number of those people who survived, or an estimate of the numbers of people ordinarily resident in the block. Jamalvatan said he was trying to compile a database of survivors on behalf of his neighbours.Sajad Jamalvatan told Amelia Gentleman this:
“We were expecting the TMO [tenant management organisation] to do this list for us, but we don’t think they are willing to help us,” he said, referring to Kensington & Chelsea TMO, the body that looked after the block for the local authority.
Jamalvatan said he was trying to organise a meeting between the council and all of the survivors, in one place, but that it was proving difficult to arrange. “They don’t want to face 400 people in a room. They prefer to deal with us individually.”Tottenham MP David Lammy had this to say in a tweet about the lack of information on the number of residents who had their lives stolen:
“There has been no update on a) the death toll, b) the number of survivors or c) the number of people in Grenfell Tower for over a week,” he wrote. “What are the authorities doing to come up with an estimation of how many people were in Grenfell? Not good enough.”Another campaign group Justice 4 Grenfell is equally perplexed about the lack of information on this and is attempting to establish an accurate list of those who died. Ishmahil Blagrove, a coordinator for Justice 4 Grenfell, said he believed that during Ramadan there were many people visiting the tower, and staying with friends:
“There are people who are still missing, people who are undocumented, we are unhappy with the 79 victims who have been recorded by the media and the police. We want to do some probing to find out how accurate that figure is and give them something that reflects a fuller picture.”A resident who escaped from the fire who was visiting the Rugby Portobello Trust, where there is a community centre for victims had this to say:
"We been helping to compile an informal list of victims and survivors, we’ve had to do it ourselves. No one has told us anything about who survived. It seems very strange, I know exactly how many people there were on my landing. We were a stable, well-formed cohesive community. That’s what makes it so strange that they haven’t done a list of residents.”Indeed.
Questions are also beginning to be asked about why it's necessary to evacuate all the residents from the Tower Blocks which have similar cladding to Grenfell House so that the cladding can be removed.
One Bray Tower resident in Camden who is still in his flat had this to say:
"My Tower was renovated almost a decade ago, nothing changed on Friday evening when we were told to leave that hasn’t been the same for the past nine years, certainly, if they say they want to evacuate to achieve the works I will do that, but they did the whole refurbishment without anybody leaving.”I myself have lived in a tower block which was refurbished and I too stayed put in the building throughout. At times electricity, water, and gas were turned off during the day while the work was being done, but we were given prior warning by the local authority to make arrangements. Living in those conditions wasn't much fun, especially if you were on nights, but it was a damn site better than living in one room in a hotel or bed and breakfast.
Now there may be good reasons to evacuate the blocks, but once again it’s the lack of information from the authorities which has poisoned the tenants relationship with them. And to re-quote a well worn saying, it doesn’t and shouldn't have to be this way.