herald

Saturday 19 August 2017

'We warned that disaster was only a matter of time' - residents

Children wearing face masks near the burning tower block
Children wearing face masks near the burning tower block

An action group at fire-ravaged Grenfell Tower has said its warnings fell on "deaf ears" after it highlighted safety concerns.

The cause of the blaze at the north Kensington tower block is not known, but a blog post from Grenfell Action Group last November said "only a catastrophic event" would expose the issues.

The group said there was only one entry and exit to the building during improvement works and it had issues with evacuation procedures.

After the fire, the group posted: "All our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time."

The group claimed access to the building was "severely restricted" for emergency services and other vehicles and that residents were advised to stay in their flats in case of fire.

Matchstick

The tower block was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.6m (€9.7m), with work completed in May last year.

The exterior of the 1970s-built tower was modernised with cladding and replacement windows, while additional homes were added using vacant space in the building.

On its website, Rydon Construction said: "Externally, rain screen cladding, curtain wall facade and replacement windows were fitted, improving thermal insulation and modernising the exterior of the building."

However, a resident of the 17th floor of the block, identified as Methrob, said the "real issue was when it caught fire to the cladding outside".

He added: "That's when I noticed the fire from outside when I looked out the window. By the time that we got downstairs, the fire had gone all the way up and it was just about reaching our windows on the 17th floor.

"The whole one side of the building was on fire. The cladding went up like a matchstick."

Methrob said residents had been concerned about safety, adding that there had been warnings "for over a year".

He said one man was "trying to get everyone to get together to do something before it was too late".

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