Residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire have vented their anger and frustration at what they say is a lack of progress in dealing with problems.
Some of those who escaped the burning block confronted housing minister Alok Sharma MP in tense exchanges during the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.
They demanded to know why those made homeless were still not rehoused.
The minister told them people would be offered a suitable place within three weeks of the fire.
Kensington and Chelsea council provided no spokesperson for the programme’s debate and they were empty-chaired.
But the government’s housing minister, Mr Sharma, arrived to answer their questions part-way through the show.
“I was happy in my house. I work hard. I want permanent accommodation,” Oluwaseun Talabi, who escaped the fire with his wife and young daughter, told him.
He and his family have been living in a hotel room.
Mahad Egal, who escaped the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower during the fire in the early hours of 14 June, described how he had been offered alternative accommodation in a high rise block. He has refused it.
“My first priority is to put suitable accommodation over my children and my wife,” he said.
Haunted by victims
The group described the practical problems they have faced in being rehoused; trying to replace burned documents; accessing funding; being unable to return to work without a permanent base; and their dealings with the authorities.
They also spoke about the psychological impacts.
Many said they had not been able to sleep since the disaster, or were haunted by images of their escape and their friends, family and neighbours who perished.
Omar Alhajali, whose brother Mohammed died in the blaze, said: “When I see (his image), I remember everything. Not only now but every night… I can’t sleep.”
The group were hugely critical of the local council and the government’s emergency response.
Other residents have also voiced concerns – nearby blocks of flats and houses still lack hot water.
Survivors have themselves begun to compile a list of the victims as the current official number of people who died stands at 79, but it is expected to rise.
They feel it will rise much further and are concerned the number is being downplayed.
Simone Willis, a nurse who helped victims on the night, addressed a panel of politicians on the programme including the local MP Emma Dent Coad and London Assembly member Tony Devenish, saying: “When you’re coming to these kinds of scenarios asking, ‘what is needed?’, think!
“You have a family, a mother, daughter, what would you need?
“This is not going to take a few shows, a few meetings, this is years of work.”
Housing minister Mr Sharma said the government guaranteed “people who have had their homes destroyed will be offered suitable accommodation within three weeks”.
That timeframe leaves one week remaining. He initially said that would be “accommodation” and later said “temporary accommodation”.
Everybody would have “good quality accommodation” he said, inviting them all to tell him their issues.
During the programme, residents raised the questions about the disaster they want to see answered by an inquiry.
- How many people have died?
- Why did the fire spread so quickly?
- Will anyone be held to account?
- Why were people told to stay put?
- Will residents see the justice they want?
Afterwards, Mr Sharma said he was going straight to the Westway emergency relief centre to hold a surgery with survivors.