Grenfell survivor describes fire as a ‘tragedy in three acts’

·3-min read
Grenfell Tower survivor Ed Daffarn  (PA)
Grenfell Tower survivor Ed Daffarn (PA)

A Grenfell Tower survivor who predicted the blaze in a blog has said the Government should be ashamed families still feel “abandoned” five years later.

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the fire, Ed Daffarn, who escaped through choking smoke from his 16th floor flat, described Grenfell as a “tragedy in three acts” – with the final act being half a decade of “betrayal” by the housing department.

Mr Daffarn described the first “act” as mistreatment by the landlords, who failed to address health and safety concerns raised by residents, and the second as the “sheer violence and trauma” they suffered on the night of the fire.

The 59-year-old social worker, who lived in the tower for 15 years, said residents were “just left on the street” in the days following the fire, and they have felt “abandoned” by the Government ever since.

The Grenfell Tower blaze (PA)
The Grenfell Tower blaze (PA)

He said people feel this way because “nothing has changed” – few of the recommendations made by the public inquiry have been written into law, and social housing residents are still living in buildings clad with the same materials blamed for the rapid spread of the blaze on Grenfell Tower.

Speaking to the PA news agency at his home in north Kensington, London, Mr Daffarn said: “We’re now five years into the saga and we’ve travelled so little distance up the road in terms of change that it feels almost like a betrayal.

“Those people with the responsibility to bring us change have acted in such an incompetent and indifferent manner to us that we are where we are.

“We’ve had so many different housing secretaries that I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had to re-tell our story.

“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told ‘I’m different from the last person’ – and then six months later we’re fighting to get an appointment with them and nothing has changed.

“Five years later on there have been small changes but the big changes haven’t happened.

“The fact that tonight, disabled people who live in high-rise buildings face the exact same danger as residents of Grenfell faced on the night of June 14, 2017, should bring shame on this Government.”

The victims of the Grenfell fire (PA)
The victims of the Grenfell fire (PA)

Mr Daffarn said that the Fire and Building Safety (Public Inquiry) Bill, which should include changes outlined in the inquiry, is making “glacial progress” through Parliament.

He also criticised the Government’s decision not to place a legal obligation on landlords to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for disabled residents to ensure they know how to exit safely in the event of a fire.

The blaze in north Kensington killed 72 people on the night of June 14, 2017.

Mr Daffarn, who is also a committee member of the campaign group Grenfell United, will be among those remembering them on Tuesday, through events including a silent walk from the base of the tower at 6.30pm.

Cording around the tower will be removed so survivors, the bereaved and community groups can gather at its base for a multifaith service and lay flowers and wreaths.

In the morning there will be a memorial service at Westminster Abbey, while a 72-second silence will be observed at Westfield shopping centre, after which the names of the 72 victims will be read out over the public address system.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said it is taking steps to ensure buildings are safer.

A DLUHC spokesman said: “The Grenfell Tower tragedy must never be allowed to happen again and our thoughts are with the bereaved families, survivors and residents.

“So far, 45 of the UK’s biggest housebuilders have signed our developer pledge and will contribute £5 billion to fix their unsafe buildings.

“We expect them to work swiftly so people feel safe in their homes, and we will be carefully scrutinising their progress.

“The Building Safety Act brings forward the biggest improvements in building safety for a generation, giving more rights and protections for residents than ever before.”

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