Grenfell Tower: 'You see this 200ft tomb, no matter where you are on the estate'

Grenfell Tower: 'You see this 200ft tomb, no matter where you are on the estate'

AN Irishman evacuated from his home after the Grenfell fire has described how six months on from the tragedy the nightmare continues for those whose lives were devastated by the blaze.

Joe Delaney, 37, whose family hail from Mayo, had lived on Barandon Walk since 2010. His apartment is under the shadow of the tower, and forms part of the same Lancaster West estate.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the community rallied round. That spirit still endures, but he says the process is starting to take a toll.

“The odd thing about trauma is it appears immediately in children, but it takes between 3-6 months to appear in adults," he told The Irish Post.

"It’s only now that we are seeing the effects on a lot of people. You are really starting to see it hit home.

"Everyone is just tired. Tired the whole time. Fatigued and worn out from the trauma of the event and everything we have had to face since. We are drained as a result of this.

“I have been to four funerals. And there were two more that I should have gone to. But I just couldn’t, I literally just couldn’t do it," he added.

“There have been at least six suicides in the area since this, and I never heard of suicides around here before.”

People gather on the steps after the Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service held at St Paul's Cathedral on December 14, 2017 in London. About 1,500 people attended the multi-faith service. (Picture: Gareth Fuller - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

A total of 71 souls perished in the fire on the morning of June 14.

In total, 206 homes were destroyed.

As recently as the end of November, of those 206, 123 were still in emergency accommodation. 47 were in temporary housing and 36 have accepted permanent dwellings.

Only 40 per cent of the people from the three attached blocks, one of which Mr Delaney lived in, secured hotel accommodation.

At present, 126 households (of those not in the tower) are still in emergency accommodation.

Mr Delaney, who previously worked as part of the insurance and risk management team at Brent Council, wrote letters and made phonecalls for friends and neighbours to help with find accommodation and support for those affected by the blaze.

But he has hit out at what he calls indifference from Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council in the months following the fire.

“The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference," he said.  "We are nothing to them (KCBC).

“Since this happened, they haven’t been dealing with a humanitarian disaster in any way whatsoever. As far as they are concerned, they are dealing with a PR one.

“The council keep saying it’s an unprecedented event. That is the one phrase we continuously hear. We know It was an unprecedented event. However, the community have been dealing with it from the moment it happened.

“The council have had six months now and frankly they’re still doing nothing of any substance.

“Were it not for the fact that it’s a Conservative local council, and we have a Conservative central government, that council would be in special measures right now.

“Councils have been put in special measures for financial reasons in the past, for simply overspending in certain departments. This one has destroyed an entire community.”

Members of the emergency services watch as Grenfell Tower is engulfed by fire on June 14, 2017 in west London.
(Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

In response to the concerns raised by Mr Delaney, a spokesperson for Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council told The Irish Post:  “All of us sympathise with those who are still living in temporary accommodation, especially at Christmas.

“But, in the coming months, we expect many more households will move into their new homes.

"We remain on course to meet our target that everyone from the Tower and Walk will be rehoused by June 2018.”

So far, Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council say they have committed over £235million on new homes for displaced residents, have exchanged or completed on 217 homes, and are on track to have 300 secured by Christmas.

The remains of Grenfell Tower (Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images)

It was another Irishman, Francis O’Connor, who highlighted safety concerns with the tower as far back as 2013.

Mr O’Connor, who lived in the tower for decades before returning to Ireland in 2014 wrote this in his Grenfell Action blog in November last year.

“It is a truly terrifying thought, but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude of the KCTMO [Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation].

“It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice.”

Written tributes to the victims and the missing from the Grenfell Tower block fire are pictured, close to the scene in North Kensington, west London, on June 19, 2017. (Picture: Niklas Hallen/AFP/Getty Images)

Six months on from the fire and the catastrophic loss of life, those who have been left behind continue to face daily hardships.

Plant equipment for the heating, hot water and gas systems for the estate were all based under Grenfell Tower.

“All of the flats around here had no heating or hot water for at least the first month.," Mr Delaney said. "The end block of the three, Hurstway, still has problems today and we are into winter.

“You have still got the police teams down there, you have got the forensic teams down there, you have still got the Disaster and Victim Identification team down there, so you have got all these people in white suits, who work through the night.

“It is never quiet on that side of the building, so even if I wanted to go back, it wouldn’t be practical to do so. You wouldn’t get any sleep.”

Winter is providing another ordeal.

“The problem we have now is that whereas before the tower was camouflaged to some degree, now you can see through the trees,” Mr Delaney said.

“You see this 200ft tomb, no matter where you are on the estate.”

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