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19.06.17

Khan calls on May to reassure ‘terrified’ high-rise residents after Grenfell fire

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has urgently written to the prime minister, Theresa May, outlining serious concerns with the local handling of the Grenfell Tower incident, urging her to take action to reassure and support “terrified” residents.

Following the fire that has now claimed the lives of at least 58 people, Khan has sharply criticised the local response to the disaster, warning that support and information for victims is insufficient, relief organisation is poor and little is being done to ease the minds of people living in other high rises.

It also comes after DCLG activated an emergency disaster fund on Friday to support victims affected by the immediate aftermath of the fire.

“I spent several hours yesterday talking to local residents around Grenfell Tower,” Khan wrote.  “These were difficult conversations with a tight-knit community that is understandably distraught, frustrated and increasingly angry.

“They feel the government and local council haven’t done enough to help them in the aftermath of this horrific incident, or to provide answers to their increasingly urgent questions.”

He continued by explaining how the lack of information for victims about missing family members was worsening the situation, adding that support on the ground was currently insufficient.

“I would ask you to ensure that the local community is given as much information as possible today and over the coming days about the number of victims and their identities,” he stated.

He went on to say: “I would urge the government to provide all necessary assistance and satisfy itself that the operation is functioning to the standard local residents have the right to expect. 

“The government should also confirm that all residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire will be rehoused in the area, unless they choose not to.”

Other issues that Khan highlighted include taking immediate action to ensure that other tower blocks fitted with the same cladding that lit up during the Grenfell fire were safety checked.

“I would ask that you to provide a list of those tower blocks already checked by the end of today, as well as a timeline for the remaining buildings,” he said.

“I would ask that you to set out a timeline for this process today.  If the government has any reason to believe specific tower blocks could be at risk, residents should be rehomed in the local area immediately, while these checks take place.”

Finally, the mayor of London also called on the PM to order a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower incident, pushing her to ensure that an interim report was published by this summer at the latest.

Civil servants drafted in to support Kensington

Khan’s letter also follows news that civil servants were being dropped in to support Kensington Borough Council disaster relief efforts.

The government staff will be embedded into the council office after widespread criticism of Kensington’s handling of the incident.

Following a meeting by the PM with residents on Saturday, it was also decided that more staff would cover relief phone lines and staff on the ground would be handed high-vis jackets to ensure they could be easily identified.

And the LGA has announced that it has already begun efforts to carry out reviews of other local tower blocks, working with local fire services to ensure buildings are safe to live in.

Fire risk assessments and the construction of buildings are being reviewed and double checks are being made to ensure remedial work recommended under previous assessments has been carried out,” said Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA. “Councils are also working closely with tenants to review and offer fire safety advice.”

“Councils take the safety of residents extremely seriously,” he added. “We need to know with certainty how this fire started and why it spread so quickly so that councils can start to take any action needed.”

Lord Porter stated that the thoughts of the whole local government family remain with the victims and families affected by this devastating fire, the local community and the emergency services.

Top Image: Victoria Jones PA Wire

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