Sunday 19 August 2018

Q&A: What happened at Grenfell Tower?

The 24-floor Grenfell Tower blaze in London last summer cost 71 people their lives and is being probed by a public inquiry. Photo: PA
The 24-floor Grenfell Tower blaze in London last summer cost 71 people their lives and is being probed by a public inquiry. Photo: PA

Almost a year since the Grenfell Tower fire inflicted loss on a scale unheard of in modern history, the inquiry into its origins is to begin.

What happened at Grenfell Tower?

Shortly after midnight on June 14, 2017, a small fire broke out in a flat on the fourth floor of the 24-storey block, which quickly engulfed the entire building.

It became the most costly human tragedy in a generation, killing 71 people and leaving hundreds more homeless.

Why was a public inquiry launched?

Widespread anger followed the disaster as it became clear that residents of Grenfell Tower had long warned the building was blighted by fire safety risks.

The spread of the blaze had apparently been accelerated by the material used in a £8.6m refurbishment, raising troubling questions about how it came to be installed.

By late June, UK Prime Minister Theresa May had appointed Martin Moore-Bick, a retired Court of Appeal judge, to head a public inquiry into the tragedy so these concerns could be answered.

According to the website, the probe will "establish the facts and will make recommendations as to the action needed to prevent a similar tragedy happening again".

What will the public inquiry be examining?

The probe will be split into two phases, the first of which has been timetabled to last until late October.

Phase one will examine the immediate causes of the fire and how it came to spread with such deadly effect. This will involve evidence from those who escaped the blaze and the firefighters who battled it, alongside expert evidence.

In the second stage, the deeper cultural issues underlying the fire's causes will be put under the microscope. Why residents' warnings were ignored; the response of Kensington and Chelsea Council and central government in the aftermath of the fire; and the work of the emergency services will be among a catalogue of issues explored.

What could the ramifications of the inquiry be?

Mr Moore-Bick has made clear he will not "shrink" from making findings that could form the backbone of a criminal or civil case. While he will not be able to apportion legal liability, he could potentially outline allegations made in future cases.

Irish Independent

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