London’s Towering Inferno
by Stephen Lendman
The disastrous west London Grenfell Tower blaze was a real-life version of the 1974 Hollywood “Towering Inferno” thriller.
As of Friday, the confirmed death toll was 30, the number expected to rise exponentially, likely dozens more.
Many others required hospitalization, at least 18 in critical condition. Dozens of building residents remain unaccounted for.
Images of the building’s floors ablaze were terrifying, for many escape impossible – for some others, jumping to their death was the only way to avoid incineration, a horrible way to die.
Hundreds of working-class residents were in the 24-story building when fire broke out on June 14 at around 1:00AM, quickly spreading to upper floors – creating a devastating towering inferno.
Images of the charred remains bear testimony to the blaze’s ferocity – and the criminality of UK authorities for letting it happen, their unacceptable neoliberal policies responsible.
No fire alarm alerted residents, no building sprinkler system, no evacuation plan in case of serious fire, and just one stairwell for the structure – clear design flaws for greater developer profits, government negligence and criminality responsible for permitting them.
Firefighters’ ladders only extended up to 12 floors. Residents were told to stay in their units, keeping doors closed with wet towels sealing crevices to keep the blaze from spreading to their apartments.
In normal fires it usually works, not at Grenfell Tower because the intense fire spread quickly, engulfing virtually everything in its path.
For years, the Grenfell Action Group residents’ organization warned about lax safety standards to no avail.
Nothing was done to correct faulty electrical wiring and emergency lighting, lack of sprinkler and fire alarm systems, as well as various other issues of concern – making the building unsafe to live in.
This type regulatory laxity is inexcusable everywhere. Yet it’s all to commonplace in poor or low-income areas – in Western and other societies, putting human lives and welfare at risk.
In the wake of London’s Grenfell Tower blaze, thousands protested publicly for immediate remedial action. “We want justice,” demonstrators demanded.
“May must go.” “Shame on you.” Key is pressuring Westminster and London authorities for responsible change. Allowing residents to live in death traps is unconscionable, including ones with no evacuation plan in case of serious fire.
The Grenfell Tower disaster was caused by indifference to the welfare of ordinary and poor Brits, gentrification reducing the affordable housing stock, force-fed austerity to benefit the country’s rich, and Thatcherite notions of the unacceptability of public housing in a “property-owning democracy.”
On Friday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “Can @Theresa_May and @David_Cameron hear the voices of the victims of their party’s vicious ideology? Shame on you.”
Labour MP David Lammy called the Grenfell Tower disaster “corporate manslaughter…totally unacceptable (to allow this) to happen…People should be held to account.”
The avoidable disaster reflects criminality at the highest levels of UK governance.
Like America and other Western societies, Britain serves its privileged class and foreign investors exclusively at the expense of its most vulnerable – a shocking indictment of destructive predatory capitalism.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.