A round-the-clock vigil at a London church where people sought refuge on the night of the Grenfell Tower fire in west London which killed 72 people, has marked the first anniversary of a tragedy that still haunts Britain.
Grenfell Tower, a social housing block that was home to a close-knit, ethnically diverse community, was engulfed by flames in the middle of the night of June 14, 2017, in Britain’s deadliest residential fire since World War Two.
The disaster, which unfolded in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, one of London’s richest boroughs, prompted a national outpouring of anguish and soul-searching over social inequalities, poor quality social housing and neglect of immigrant communities.
At St Clement’s, a church where people fleeing the burning building gathered that night and local residents came to offer their support, an all-night, silent vigil began at 6 p.m. on Wednesday on the eve of the one-year anniversary.
The silence was broken after the names of all the victims was read aloud at 1:30 a.m. – the time when the deadly blaze engulfed the high-rise block – and when prayers were said on the hour through the night.
In the run-up to the memorial, the top floors of the charred ruins of the building have been covered with white sheeting displaying large green hearts – the symbol of the tragedy – and the words “Grenfell Forever In Our Hearts”.
Buildings across Britain, including Prime Minister Theresa May’s official residence Number 10 Downing Street, was lit up in green overnight in honour of the victims.
A national minute’s silence will take place at 12 p.m. on Thursday, with survivors and the bereaved expected to gather close to the charred tower.
Commemorations will also include a silent march in the evening, and several religious services at churches and mosques.
A public inquiry into the causes of the fire is not sitting in the anniversary week, out of respect for the victims and survivors.
The blaze is also the subject of a police inquiry which could result in criminal charges related to negligence and breaches of health and safety regulations.
- With additional reports from Reuters