Grenfell Tower fire survivors join royals and firefighters for memorial
It comes six months after the blaze that gutted the 24-storey social housing block in west London
Survivors of a fire that killed 71 people at a social housing block in west London six months ago joined firefighters and members of the royal family on Thursday for a national memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral.
The blaze broke out at Grenfell Tower in the middle of the night on June 14 and quickly gutted the 24-storey building. The high-rise was home to a close-knit, multi-ethnic community living in a poor area within one of London's richest boroughs, Kensington and Chelsea.
The disaster profoundly shocked Britain, highlighting extreme disparities in living conditions between rich and poor and fuelling a debate over whether disdain for social housing residents had played a part.
"Hosting this service at St Paul's Cathedral, an iconic venue in London, recognises the significance of this tragedy both for the local community and the wider nation," said Graham Tomlin, the bishop of Kensington, ahead of the service.
Prime minister Theresa May, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, were all attending the service.
But members of Kensington and Chelsea council, which owns Grenfell Tower and has been widely criticised for its actions before and after the fire, were asked not to attend because survivors and bereaved families did not want them there.
"I totally respect that," council leader Elizabeth Campbell said. "We will be paying our own respects in the council with a minute's silence."
Hundreds of people displaced by the fire, both those who lived in the tower itself and others who lived in nearby buildings, are still staying in hotels six months later as the council has so far been unable to permanently rehouse them.
Ms Campbell has defended the council, saying it was doing everything it could to secure quality homes for affected families, but members of the Grenfell community who have spoken to media have complained of a slow, confusing process.
"I am sorry. I'm sorry that they're in hotels," said Ms Campbell.
Police are conducting a criminal investigation into the fire and have said that charges may be brought against individuals or organisations. A separate public inquiry is under way into the causes of the fire and the authorities' response.
Updated: December 14, 2017 03:35 PM