London fire: ‘Outrageous’ lack of help for Grenfell tower victims


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EPA

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Residents are still looking for answers and information near the Grenfell Tower site

There are many things fuelling the anger felt here.

The catastrophic loss of life is the primary factor, of course. But there is also the fact that people are finding it very difficult to get any information.

There does not appear to be any central official point here on the ground where people can go to get answers and support. No marquee with “help centre” written on the side. No officials with lanyards guiding confused and desperate people to counsellors.

There has been a huge voluntary response, with local churches and others helping people.

Donations have flooded in – too many now – such is the public response.

And unseen officials are caring for those in hospital and working to find empty accommodation in which to house those left homeless.

And yet on the ground people speak of a total lack of coordination from the government and Kensington and Chelsea council.

Local residents’ association representatives say some families are still sleeping on floors in centres around the Grenfell Tower four days after the fire.

‘Absolute chaos’

They talk of absolute chaos. And they say what they regard as the inability of the local council to respond to their needs and concerns is “symptomatic of why we had this disaster”.

Such is the total and utter lack of trust between residents and the officials in charge.

One of the things fuelling the anger here – perhaps the main thing – is the lack of a central point of contact for answers.

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Getty Images

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Residents demonstrate outside Kensington Town Hall

Crisis management at disasters around the world swings into action at varying speeds. But even in remote areas, international bodies have normally set up obvious local centres of support fairly soon after the event.

It has not happened in North Kensington.

Twenty-four hours after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, I arrived to find no international response to speak of.

But within another 24 hours that response was arriving and was significant there three days after the disaster – teams from around the world flying in, crisis centres and the United Nations in control of feeding points and housing solutions.

Yes, there were problems. There always are. But the centralised and visible response was in place days later in a relatively remote area.

That is what appears to be missing in the richest borough in one of the world’s leading cities.

Kensington and Chelsea council’s website refers to a “Family and Friends Reception” at the Westway Sports Centre, staffed by police.

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Reuters

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People need to be taken care of, says one former resident

People need visible and accessible emotional psychological and physical help and right now they say they are not getting it.

Many people here believe an affluent Conservative council failed to look after its poorest residents.

But one angry former resident of the tower, who moved out in October, said: “Right now the residents need housing and taking care of. The council have failed to do so.

“This is not about politics. It is about getting people what they need and deserve. It is an outrage.”

There has been little trust between residents and the council over the years. They say their concerns about safety in the Grenfell Tower were not listened to – not acted upon.

Right now that lack of trust is deepening. And so is the anger.

First Secretary of State Damian Green told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Kensington council are absolutely doing their best.

“People want answers, people want someone on the ground. The new recovery taskforce that the prime minister is chairing has people from central government as well as from the council on the ground to answer all those perfectly reasonable questions.

“It was decided to do it yesterday, it is happening today,” he added.

Matthew Price reports for the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.



Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40312564

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