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Was the West London fire avoidable?

By Keerthana Chavaly

The Grenfell Tower, containing 24 stories and 127 flats, was overcome by a fire reported at 00:54 BST on 14th June. The devastating fire has already left 30 people dead and several more injured. The cause of the fire is unknown as of yet and the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has launched an investigation into the issue. A number of firefighters attended the scene, and it was later reported that many of them have also suffered from injuries. Recent updates have revealed that the police think as many as a hundred casualties can be expected from this disaster. 

As the world reels in shock in the aftermath of the disaster, and Londoners protests against the response of the authorities’ (or the lack of it), let us consider the details of the disaster.

The controversy and alleged remarks

As the news of the fire spread across the world, a huge controversy arose. Arnold Turling, a fire safety expert, stated to The Telegraph that the disaster was “entirely avoidable”. The public has been up in arms over the lack of action by the authorities, despite multiple concerns raised regarding the fire safety of Grenfell Tower. For the past 30 years, warnings were made against the building but authorities turned a deaf ear to their concerns. 

Further, it has been alleged that the tower was not subjected to a full risk assessment since 2015 despite undergoing a complete refurbishment in mid-2016. Many experts also opine that the tower does not meet fire safety standards, which is highlighted by the highly inflammable cladding used in the building and the absence of sprinklers, which could have stopped the fire in its early stages.

Singer Lily Allen has also made controversial remarks stating that the government was misrepresenting the number of casualties. According to her, the actual number stands at 150.

A tool for political mileage

The West London fire has important consequences for Londoners: the number of fatalities is expected to rise and many people still remain unaccounted for. In the face of this dire situation, several political leaders have earned the ire of an enraged public.

British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was criticised for having a meeting with emergency services instead of meeting with the families of victims. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was heckled when visiting the scene of the disaster.

Meanwhile, Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was praised for personally consoling victims and their families and for taking a deep personal interest in the matter. 

Undertaking precautionary measures

In the wake of the disaster, experts are busy discussing possible precautionary methods even as the exact cause of the fire remains unknown. Many residents seem to think that the fire was sparked by the explosion of a fridge on the fourth floor of the Grenfell Tower. However, these reports remain unconfirmed. A few precautionary measures have been suggested in order to avoid a disaster of this kind in the future.

Reports have emerged that the fire safety regulations in Britain have been the same for the past ten years. An examination of the regulations will help update fire safety codes. The cladding used by the Grenfell Tower is rumoured to have helped spread the fire rapidly. This type of cladding, made of flammable plastic, is illegal in the US but still remains legal in Britain. Outlawing of this inferior type of cladding will improve the safety of buildings. 

Also, lack of sprinklers and fire exits have been rumoured to play a role. Regular checks by authorities, surprise tests, and stringent punishments are some precautionary methods that have been suggested.

United we stand

Residents in London have been demonstrating their outrage at the fact that the fire could have been avoided if precautionary methods had been taken at the right time. They are also coming together to support the families of victims.

A British Red Cross relief fund has been set up. Theatres, bars, and restaurants are also donating money. Churches, mosques, and temples are also collecting a record number of donations.


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