Grenfell Tower Inquiry Opens in London With Focus on Victims

The public inquiry is not the only attempt to explain what happened. Police investigators have been charged with discovering whether crimes were committed. Just last week, a separate inquiry by a government-appointed engineer, Judith Hackitt, concluded that Britain’s building safety regulations were lax and confused.

But Ms. Hackitt’s 159-page report stopped short of recommending a ban on flammable facades, particularly the kind of cladding that proved to be a critical element in the rapid spread of the Grenfell fire.

The public inquiry will be conducted in the context of a far deeper tangle of political maneuvering and passions. Survivors have depicted the blaze as an emblem of official indifference toward ordinary people living — and dying — in social housing in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, one of London’s wealthiest areas.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Opens in London With Focus on Victims
Grenfell Tower Inquiry Opens in London With Focus on Victims

“This should be a really seminal inquiry, and you can’t get it right unless you have the community at the heart of it,” said Diane Abbott, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party. “Grenfell is more than the sum of its parts. It is the technical aspects of how the fire started, but there are also broader issues that we need to touch on.”

“We need to dig down and find out why those people weren’t listened to,” Ms. Abbott told the BBC. “Had they been listened to before the fire, the fire would not have happened,” she continued. “It is all about giving people a voice. They said over and over that there would be this type of disaster, and tragically this disaster happened.”

Anne-Marie Murphy, whose 56-year-old brother Denis died on the 14th floor of the tower block, told the inquiry on Monday: “Ever since Denis has been gone, there has been a gaping hole in our hearts that can never be filled, and it hurts. It really hurts.”

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