Residents ‘living in the shadow’ of Grenfell Tower on fifth anniversary of fire

Dozens died in block of flats in west London in 2017

Over 70 people died after a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower in west London in 2017. PA.
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Residents have described what it has been like “living in the shadow” of Grenfell Tower, five years after the blaze that claimed 72 lives.

Members of the community in North Kensington, west London, spoke of how the fire “seems like it was last night”, with the tower a constant reminder of the trauma they have suffered.

The June 2017 disaster left the 67 metre-tall building dilapidated and charred.

Authorities took four months to cover the block in a protective wrap with green hearts and the message: “Forever in our hearts.”

Five years on, no decision has been made about the future of the building. But the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission said a garden was “by far” the most popular idea from a survey of survivors, bereaved relatives and local residents.

Eman Yosry, a resident of Markland House tower block near Grenfell Tower, said the flats are “in front of us all the time”.

In an interview ahead of the anniversary on Tuesday, Ms Yosry spoke about losing many people she knew in the fire, saying: “I feel I can’t describe how sad and how difficult and painful it was.”

Growing tearful, she added: “I don’t know what to say.”

Ms Yosry said: “You can’t get away or forget what happened. It’s there, it’s in front of us all the time.

“Everywhere you go – you see Grenfell Tower. You go to anywhere near the area, you see the tower.”

Nahid Ashby, a resident of the Frinstead House tower block on the Silchester estate near the tower, said: “We’re still living in the shadow.”

Ms Ashby described what it was like waiting for months for authorities to cover the burnt-out tower.

She said: “A lot of people were saying from the very beginning: ‘Are you going to cover it so we don’t have to look at it?’

“But by the time they covered it, it felt even worse because, I don’t know, they’re just covering it all up because that fire shouldn’t have happened.”

Mohammad Tehrani, 66, who lives in Bramley House next to the tower, said the disaster was always on his mind.

Mr Tehrani, who was at the foot of the tower on the night five years ago, said he saw body bags being carried out of the building and watched debris falling from it.

Showing a video he took of the debris surrounding Bramley House in the morning, Mr Tehrani said he cleared it up as children walked past on the way to school.

The 66-year-old said the ordeal “seems like it was last night” for the community while authorities try to “brush it under the carpet”.

He said: “I mean for us it hasn’t aged.

“It just seems it was last night so five years (on) and they try to ignore, they try to brush it under the carpet.”

Mr Tehrani said he is now able to talk about the disaster without crying but it is still “inside me”.

He also said he still gets flashbacks at night, seeing people “behind the windows begging for their lives”.

“This is something that we’ve seen that we will never forget – no matter what you do, it’s in your mind.

“For four years I used to cry every time you asked me a question, I couldn’t control myself.

“I’m trying my best but it’s inside me still. You can’t help it.”

Mr Tehrani said the way the disaster has cast a long shadow on the lives of children in the community is “so bad”.

He added: “I feel so sorry for my grandchildren, I feel so sorry when I see the young people, because I don’t think they will have a good future because of the things happening.

“They don’t speak but it’s at the back of their mind – if I’m 66 years old and I cannot forget that night, just imagine.

“I mean even my granddaughter lost some friends in her school.

“They don’t say anything but obviously it’s internally affected them – all of them.

“Some of the children, I’ve heard from our community, they don’t even go to the gas fire, they don’t like to see their mother cooking on the gas fire.

“You see it’s so bad.”

Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said: “On the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy, and always, our first and last thoughts are with those who lost their lives, their families and their friends.

“The bereaved and survivors continue to show incredible strength, courage, and solidarity, as they search for truth and justice.

“They have set us the challenge of being the best council – something I intend to strive towards."

A representative of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “The Grenfell Tower tragedy must never be allowed to happen again and our thoughts are with the bereaved families, survivors and residents.”

Updated: June 10, 2022, 11:01 PM