quinta-feira, 15 de junho de 2017
Locals’ anger and frustration spills out after Grenfell Tower fire
Witnesses of the Grenfell Tower fire in west London tell how the block was engulfed by flames and some people on the higher floors were still asleep inside. Denise Bloomfield, 37, evacuated from a nearby flat, says she saw people ‘waiting for the fire to take them, just waiting to die’
A number of people are dead after a huge blaze devastated a 24-storey apartment block in west London. At least 200 firefighters and 40 engines are on the scene of a massive fire at Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road, near Notting Hill
Locals’ anger and frustration spills out after Grenfell Tower fire
Tenants criticise council and building’s management company after Wednesday’s devastating blaze
Harriet Sherwood, Lisa O'Carroll, Damien Gayle and Amelia Gentleman
Wednesday 14 June 2017 21.09 BST Last modified on Thursday 15 June 2017 05.38 BST
A long wait for news of loved ones or somewhere to stay has left those caught up in the Grenfell Tower disaster in a state of grief and frustration, amid claims that relief efforts were falling short.
Charity workers and volunteers providing aid for those affected by the fire said that they were coordinating with each other on Wednesday evening, with little central coordination from the council or other authorities.
Zia Salik, of Islamic Relief, spent the day helping to collect supplies at al-Manaar Islamic centre on Acklam Road near Ladbroke Grove since the morning. He said his group had been coordinating with other Muslim charities but had little central direction from authorities.
“There’s a group of people representing different Muslim charities in London that I’m in contact with at the moment,” he said. “We’re communicating through WhatsApp.
“We’ve had a few local council workers who popped by [the centre] to see what was going on but I think to be honest it’s probably a resource issue. It’s very much down to the charities.”
Islamic Relief was not part of any prior plan to respond to a disaster such as the fire, which began in the residential tower block early on Wednesday morning. “I think, to be honest, the situation caught everybody off guard and I think that’s the nature of the emergency,” he said. “Maybe the communication element could have been stronger, but we take our hats off to the community who’ve come out.”
Volunteers at the Notting Hill Methodist church also complained of a lack of central coordination from authorities. They were turning away donations after running out of space. Ian Pilcher, a 50-year-old local resident who had been volunteering all day, said the official response appeared to be non-existent.
“This has been a bottom-up effort from the community, people from the community just trying to find out where to bring stuff,” he said.
“In terms of any sort of local crisis response management, there has been no coordination at all as far as we understand. It’s been about centres like this coordinating with other centres and working out where to bring things. There has been very little top-level leadership.”
The lack of organisation meant supplies were not getting to where they are needed, Pilcher said. “There’s overload. There’s nothing getting out saying: ‘If you’ve got bedding take it here; if you’ve got food, take it there.’”
The borough of Kensington and Chelsea did not comment on claims its emergency response had been lacking. It said it had already “housed 44 families on commercial hotels” and would be working through the night to house people either in the Westway sports centre, where emergency accommodation for 300 people has been established, or in other hotels.
But local residents, already in anguish over the fire and reports that repeated efforts to raise the problem had been ignored, expressed their anger at the authorities.
Piers Thompson, a local campaigner, vented his fury at the Kensington and Chelsea council leader, Nicholas Paget-Brown, who arrived for an on-camera interview with the BBC in the shadow of the charred remains of the tower. He shouted: “Do you have blood on your hands, Paget-Brown?” The council leader did not respond.
Thompson said “Their social housing has been a catastrophe waiting to happen. Everyone here has lost someone. We want to see some justice for the victims.
“These guys [gesturing to the councillor] stand around with hubris and arrogance. They’ve built something which is more of a firetrap than it ever was before. It used to be a beautiful concrete building.”
Thompson said the council’s tenant management organisation was “not fit to run a bath”.
His wife, Tanya Thompson, who campaigns with her husband, said: “The breathtaking arrogance of the council – the refurbishment was appalling.”
Later, there were chaotic scenes on Walmer Road where some of the distressed and traumatised victims of the fire were given temporary shelter. The council had directed families from the tower to the Rugby Portobello Trust just metres down the road, but it was due to close at 8pm.
Although housing officers were inside, there was no commanding presence from the council outside. Volunteers at the trust said they thought the families were being moved to the Westway sports centre about 15 minutes’ walk away under the A40.
The absence of council officials on the ground as hundreds of families were
homeless was concerning, said Judith Blakeman, Labour councillor at
Kensington and Chelsea “There’s been so many cuts, there aren’t enough people to deal with this,” she said.
Gesturing to nearby efforts by Reverend Mike Long at Notting Hill Methodist Church, she said: “Mike has been running this centre giving people food and water
all day and not a single person from the council has been here.”
Volunteers at the Westway said they had been told to expect locals who had been displaced from neighbouring streets as families from the tower were dealing not just with the loss of a bed for the night “but their entire homes”.
“They are clearly in a much different category and need something more permanent,” said Alex Russell, the sports centre’s director of communications.
Independent of the council, she and a team of volunteers at the charity made an impromptu plan to create an emergency accommodation centre in the gym early in the morning and by 5pm it had mattresses donated from locals for 300 people. “The community spirit has been amazing, people have been arriving here with trolley loads of food since this morning,” said Russell.
There was anger at the behaviour of some of the media when a large group gathered outside the Rugby Portobello Trust, one of three designated rest centres near the tower, early on Wednesday evening – many anxiously seeking information about missing loved ones.
The trust, which provides activities for young people in the area, was preparing to house some of the families displaced by the fire.
In a sign of levels of anger and distress, clashes with the police erupted outside after a journalist tried to film a distraught woman in the crowd. Some men moved to protect the woman, and within seconds a large contingent of police officers were jostling with the crowd amid shouting and screaming.
One onlooker said the police and media were acting insensitively towards people whose loved ones were missing. “Emotions are running very high,” he said.
Supt Graham Price said it wasn’t clear what had caused the incident, but he had reports that people in the local community could not get through on casualty helplines and had congregated at the trust. “Some felt the media was being overly intrusive and that led to a bit of disorder,” he said.
Calm was swiftly restored but the incident was an indication of rising levels of distress. A volunteer from the trust appealed for respect through a megaphone. “People are very upset, very worried, and they need some space while they find out what’s happening. If you want to help, please pray.”