Grenfell Tower fire: Lockdown makes third anniversary 'difficult'

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image captionSome families say they will hold a memorial at the site of the gutted 24 storey tower

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have said social distancing has meant this year's anniversary of the disaster will be even more difficult.

Seventy-two people were killed in the blaze in Kensington, west London, on 14 June 2017.

A series of memorial events are set to be broadcast online on Sunday to comply with lockdown guidelines.

"You really want to give someone a hug, it's going to be very weird," survivor Nicholas Burton said.

Mr Burton, who lost his wife Pily in the fire, said it would be difficult not to meet fellow survivors on the anniversary.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "We are a kind of family. The pain and the healing are still very raw."

Mr Burton said he would hold a memorial at the site of the gutted 24 storey tower, which still stands in North Kensington, along with survivors and families who lost loved ones.

image copyrightReuters
image captionPeople leave notes of remembrance and leaving tributes near to the tower

On Sunday three virtual events will be held to mark the third anniversary of the disaster.

All Saints Church in Notting Hill will broadcast an online memorial service from 11:00 BST.

The service will feature a pre-recorded performance by Grenfell survivor and Britain's Got Talent finalist, Leanne Mya.

The service has been arranged by Clarrie Mendy, from Humanity for Grenfell, who lost her niece Khadija Saye and cousin Mary Mendy in the fire.

At 18:00 BST bells will ring out across several London churches and the names of the 72 who died will be read out at a multi-faith vigil, followed by a two-minute silence.

Grenfell United, the group for survivors and the bereaved, will then begin a virtual silent walk.

In the evening buildings across London will be lit up green - the colour that has become associated with Grenfell.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionOn the 14th day of each month Grenfell's community holds a silent walk to campaign for change.

The Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin, said commemorating the fire has been "quite a challenge" because of coronavirus.

"Remembering is crucial because if we forget then we repeat the mistakes of the past," he said.

"The sense of inequality in our society has been revealed by coronavirus. The spotlight was also shone on that by Grenfell as well."

Tiago Alves, a survivor and member of Grenfell United, said staying at home during the pandemic had been "very difficult".

"People are forced to be staying at home, when people are scared to be staying at home due to fire risks," Mr Alves said.

"One of the more difficult aspects is not being able to be with the rest of the survivors, bereaved and wider community.

"One of things that allowed us to fight the fights we're fighting is our community".

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBuildings around London will be illuminated with green light

Zoë Dainton said the lockdown has been "very triggering".

She said: "The uncertainty has brought up a lot of memories of how we felt after the fire.

"I dwell on the fact that three years down the line not a lot has changed.

"It makes me feel really frustrated that we are still having to fight for the rest of the UK living in dangerous homes."

The government has launched a £1bn fund to replace dangerous cladding from buildings across the UK.

Before the coronavirus pandemic ministers told those living in tower blocks with Grenfell-style cladding that it would be replaced by June this year.

Thousands of homes are still covered in aluminium composite material (ACM) deemed to be dangerous.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and the mayor of London pledged to allow safety improvements to continue as long as social distancing rules were being followed.

image captionTiago Alves says "hundreds of buildings" still have flammable Grenfell-style cladding

Mr Alves said: "It has been three years and there's still hundreds of buildings that haven't had the flammable cladding removed.

"That is over a thousand days of no work being done to make people safe.

"The question then needs to be asked: Do they care about the safety of their own citizens?"

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "The Grenfell Tower fire was a devastating tragedy.

"We are as determined as ever to ensure this can never happen again.

"That's why we're providing £1.6bn to ensure unsafe cladding is removed from high-rise buildings as soon as possible, while also bringing forward the biggest legislative changes to building safety in a generation.

"We will ensure everyone affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy continues to receive the support they need with over £158m committed to supporting the community so far."

But the National Fire Chiefs Council has called for "a fundamental reform of building safety", with chairman Roy Wilsher saying "everyone has a right to feel safe in their homes".

He called for ministers to speed up changes "to make sure we do not see another tragedy of this scale unfold".

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