Residents lash out at officials over response before and after London apartment tower fire – Los Angeles Times

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A public inquiry and police investigation have been launched, but the speed with which the building caught fire has already led experts to believe the exterior cladding may have been the cause. It was installed during a recent multimillion-dollar refurbishment, and reports in the British media say a cheaper, non-fire-resistant material was used — about $2.56 cheaper per square yard — and banned in the United States and Germany. The total savings was estimated to be around $6,400.

Residents of the tower had repeatedly raised concerns about fire safety, and even ominously warned in a November 2016 post on the Grenfell Action Group resident’s website that the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization, which manages the block on behalf of the council, were “playing with fire.”

“[We] believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord,” the post reads. But their pleas fell on deaf ears because, many believe, the inhabitants were low-income.

“It’s about profits, power and greed,” said Londoner Simon Higgins, 40, who mingled with the crowds on Friday evening airing his views about the government’s failings and disregard for average, working-class people. “It’s been that way for a long time and I think it’s about time that things changed. If this is not done properly, and quickly, it will kick off big time. We’ll have more riots.”

In the wake of the London Bridge terrorist attack earlier this month, where three men drove a van into pedestrians and then knifed pub and restaurant-goers in Borough Market killing eight and injuring dozens, Corbyn managed to successfully turn the discourse into a debate about security and cuts to public services, spotlighting a decision May made while home secretary to reduce police numbers by 20,000.

In the days after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Corbyn successfully captured the public’s outrage once again and made May look out of touch.

“If you cut local authority expenditure then the price is paid somehow,” he was quoted as saying.

Although there is no implication that the fire department was understaffed or ill-equipped in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Grenfell Tower fire has also sparked questions about cuts to London fire departments under then-London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is now the foreign secretary.

Under his tenure, 10 fire stations were shuttered and 552 firefighter jobs were cut.

May looked rattled during a tough BBC TV interview Friday night in which she was asked repeatedly whether she misjudged the public mood and failed to act quickly enough to support victims. She had earlier announced a $6.4-million fund to help victims.

“Something terrible has happened,” she said, but stopped short of admitting any government wrongdoing.

On Saturday, as 1,000 protesters gathered outside the gates leading to 10 Downing Street to voice their anger at May’s leadership and she met privately with victims within the prime minister’s residence, her office issued a statement suggesting they realize this is not a tragedy that can be alleviated with words alone.

“Frankly, the support on the ground for families who needed help or basic information in the initial hours after this appalling disaster was not good enough,” May’s statement said. “The fire at Grenfell Tower was an unimaginable tragedy for the community, and for our country. My government will do whatever it takes to help those affected, get justice and keep our people safe.”


UPDATES:

3:55 p.m.: This article was updated to add Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement of a $6.4-million fund to help victims of the fire.

This article was originally published at 3:20 p.m.

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