Harefield Gazette

Tower residents ‘left to God and good neighbours’


- By HANNAH NEARY @hannahnear­y16

GRENFELL Tower residents were “left to God and good neighbours” after council blunders on day of the fire, a charity boss said.

Chief executive of P3 Charity Group Mark Simms said the North Kensington community was left to look after itself in the immediate aftermath of the tragic fire on June 14, 2017.

Mr Simms told the Grenfell Inquiry on Tuesday that he struggled to get hold of Kensington and Chelsea Council’s emergency response team on the morning of the fire, which meant volunteers were left to help people on the ground without help from officials.

He said: “The North Kensington community was looking after its own people in the absence of anything coming from anywhere else... They were left to God and good neighbours and that can’t be right in 2017 in Central London.”

Mr Simms himself left his home in Nottingham­shire and travelled to Kensington early in the morning on June 14. Speaking at the inquiry on Tuesday, May 10 he said: “It’s a sad indictment really, that people were getting out of bed to help their fellow neighbours when other people weren’t getting out of their offices to help our citizens.”

The inquiry heard how Mr Simms helped to co-ordinate an emergency hub, known as a ‘rest centre’, for survivors at the Rugby Portobello Trust, which is located a short distance from the tower. He said his team helped around 100 survivors and bereaved families in the immediate aftermath of the blaze by giving them shelter in the club and sourcing clothes, food and medicine for them.

Mr Simms also said the volunteers booked hotel rooms for survivors, organised taxi journeys to accommodat­ion and gave cash donations in the days that followed the tragedy and later sourced mobile phones, laptops and cooking equipment to Grenfell residents. The inquiry previously heard from survivors that the council failed to tell them where they would be housed immediatel­y after the fire and they had no informatio­n about where their missing family members were. Some people desperatel­y searched hospitals for their relatives as they were left in the dark about whether they had survived the blaze.

An ex-council worker recently told the inquiry the authority’s emergency response team was not properly trained to deal with a major incident and was too slow to react to the fire. Rebecca Blackburn, an expert in disaster management, said staff couldn’t manage the situation and were unable to direct people where to go.

In a statement, Mr Simms said: “There was an absence of a coordinate­d visible response from the council... In my view, the lack of communicat­ion from other lead agencies at a strategic level outlining what the plan was and how things were being managed was the biggest challenge... I kept thinking that help and support would come from other lead organisati­ons, however it never materialis­ed.”

He added: “None of the agencies engaged with the community quickly enough to make any discernibl­e difference to them or their situation. By the time any serious attempt was made, the community no longer trusted the organisati­ons to support them. It came too little, too late.... there was no overarchin­g leadership and co-ordination in the immediate aftermath of the fire. The local community helped themselves with support from others.”

Mr Simms told the inquiry: “I find it remarkable. This is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and this is London that’s dealt with some enormous challenges... It was clear to me at 9 o’clock in the morning in the immediate aftermath of the fire that the borough was not able to cope.”

The Grenfell Inquiry continues.

 ?? ?? This year marks the fifth anniversar­y of the fire on June 14
This year marks the fifth anniversar­y of the fire on June 14
 ?? ?? Chief executive of P3 Charity Group Mark Simms
Chief executive of P3 Charity Group Mark Simms

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